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‘What Has Survived’
Nassim Taleb on ‘Skin in The Game’
© 2013 James LaFond
Nick Gillespi of Reason.TV interviews risk management teacher Nassim Taleb.
I hope my boxing readers take the time to view this 53-minute discussion. This man is being questioned by someone interested in the global monetary system. But that is not what he is talking about. Nassim Taleb is a math geek trained in probability theory who also reads ancient literature. His entire philosophy could be described as ‘How to make decisions with incomplete information.’ This philosophy is all about limiting risk.
He is hated and feared by his counterparts in the government for the same reason why martial arts instructors hate and fear boxers, kick-boxers, stick-fighters and MMA fighters. Real fighters, who fight, embrace combat models with implicit and constant risks of injury. Commercial karate makes of itself a non-contact island with no risk, in which it incubates practitioners incapable of sustaining combat. Nassim deals in principles, in an attempt to develop decision making models that will not blow up if someone makes a mistake.
The combat analogy is that karate practitioners practice and compete with no risk of being punched in the head, while boxers have to deal with head punches. If you punch both of these people in the face, what happens? The boxer, thanks to his stressed training environment, is at minimal risk. The karate kid, thanks to his sanitized risk-free training, is at high risk.
Nassim discuss ‘the island effect’, how not permitting failures concentrates mistakes, how stressed systems are healthier than protected systems, the wisdom of incremental change, and why having ‘skin in the game’ is so important in the development of a healthy system. In the end he says nothing that an MMA coach would not say to a reporter curious about fighter preparation. When it comes down to it, ‘combat sports’ are risk-based stressed systems, and therefore survivable. Nassim Taleb, has, in this brief explanation of why a modern economy can and will crash so easily, has essentially made the same prediction as a boxing coach shaking his head as a fighter that has never taken a punch is ushered into the ring by an overprotective coach.
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