Killer Black Swans!
There’s a lot in here that could and should be applied to education. It seems to touch on a lot of ideas that are circulating around the idea of “edupunk” but more importantly, to me anyway, is the idea that you can’t know everything, you can’t control everything and that failure and fun need to be built into the equation. That’s not how NCLB etc. see the world.
The short list below really doesn’t get at the full ideas so I recommend reading the whole article.
I’m not sure about some of them- like #8 but I think it should also be read with some humor and I heartily encourage “tease(ing) people who take themselves and their knowledge too seriously.” It is worth thinking about.
Above all, accept randomness. Accept that the world is opaque, majestically unknown and unknowable. From its depths emerge the black swans that can destroy us or make us free. Right now they’re killing us, so remember to shave. But we can tinker our way out of it. It’s what we do best. Listen to Taleb, an ancient figure, one of the great Mediterranean minds, when he says: “You find peace by coming to terms with what you don’t know.” Oh, and watch those carbs
Taleb’s top life tips
Scepticism is effortful and costly. It is better to be sceptical about matters of large consequences, and be imperfect, foolish and human in the small and the aesthetic.
- Go to parties. You can’t even start to know what you may find on the envelope of serendipity. If you suffer from agoraphobia, send colleagues.
- It’s not a good idea to take a forecast from someone wearing a tie. If possible, tease people who take themselves and their knowledge too seriously.
- Wear your best for your execution and stand dignified. Your last recourse against randomness is how you act — if you can’t control outcomes, you can control the elegance of your behaviour. You will always have the last word.
- Don’t disturb complicated systems that have been around for a very long time. We don’t understand their logic. Don’t pollute the planet. Leave it the way we found it, regardless of scientific ‘evidence’.
- Learn to fail with pride — and do so fast and cleanly. Maximise trial and error — by mastering the error part.
Avoid losers. If you hear someone use the words ‘impossible’, ‘never’, ‘too difficult’ too often, drop him or her from your social network. Never take ‘no’ for an answer (conversely, take most ‘yeses’ as ‘most probably’).
- Don’t read newspapers for the news (just for the gossip and, of course, profiles of authors). The best filter to know if the news matters is if you hear it in cafes, restaurants… or (again) parties.
- Hard work will get you a professorship or a BMW. You need both work and luck for a Booker, a Nobel or a private jet.
- Answer e-mails from junior people before more senior ones. Junior people have further to go and tend to remember who slighted them.
Black swans, by the way,
To explain: black swans were discovered in Australia. Before that, any reasonable person could assume the all-swans-are-white theory was unassailable. But the sight of just one black swan detonated that theory. Every theory we have about the human world and about the future is vulnerable to the black swan, the unexpected event. We sail in fragile vessels across a raging sea of uncertainty. “The world we live in is vastly different from the world we think we live in.”