"There's A Global Riot Against Psuedo-Experts" Nassim Taleb Exclaims "This Is Not About Fascism"

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Suhasini Haidar via TheHindu.com,

Economist-mathematician Nassim Nicholas Taleb contends that there is a global riot against pseudo-experts

After predicting the 2008 economic crisis, the Brexit vote, the U.S. presidential election and other events correctly, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of the Incerto series on global uncertainties, which includes The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, is seen as something of a maverick and an oracle. Equally, the economist-mathematician has been criticised for advocating a “dumbing down” of the economic system, and his reasoning for U.S. President Donald Trump and global populist movements. In an interview in Jaipur, Taleb explains why he thinks the world is seeing a “global riot against pseudo-experts”.

I’d like to start by asking about your next book, Skin in the Game, the fifth of the Incerto series. You do something unusual with your books: before you launch, you put chapters out on your website. Why is that?

Putting my work online motivates me to go deeper into a subject. I put it online and it gives some structure to my thought. The only way to judge a book is by something called the Lindy effect, and that is its survival. My books have survived. I noticed that The Black Swan did well because it was picked up early online, long before the launch. I also prefer social media to interviews in the mainstream media as many journalists don’t do their research, and ‘zeitgeist’ updates [Top Ten lists] pass for journalism.

The media is not one organisation or a monolithic entity.

Well, I’m talking about the United States where I get more credible news from the social media than the mainstream media. But I am very impressed with the Indian media that seems to present both sides of the story. In the U.S., you only get either the official, bureaucratic or the academic side of the story.

In Skin in the Game, you seem to build on theories from The Black Swan that give a sense of foreboding about the world economy. Do you see another crisis coming?

Oh, absolutely! The last crisis [2008] hasn’t ended yet because they just delayed it. [Barack] Obama is an actor. He looks good, he raises good children, he is respectable. But he didn’t fix the economic system, he put novocaine [local anaesthetic] in the system. He delayed the problem by working with the bankers whom he should have prosecuted. And now we have double the deficit, adjusted for GDP, to create six million jobs, with a massive debt and the system isn’t cured. We retained zero interest rates, and that hasn’t helped. Basically we shifted the problem from the private corporates to the government in the U.S. So, the system remains very fragile.

You say Obama put novocaine in the system. How will the Trump administration be able to address this?

Of course. The whole mandate he got was because he understood the economic problems. People don’t realise that Obama created inequalities when he distorted the system. You can only get rich if you have assets. What Trump is doing is put some kind of business sense in the system. You don’t have to be a genius to see what’s wrong. Instead of Trump being elected, if you went to the local souk [bazaar] in Aleppo and brought one of the retail shop owners, he would do the same thing Trump is doing. Like making a call to Boeing and asking why are we paying so much.

You’re seen as something of an oracle, given that you saw the 2008 economic crash coming, you predicted the Brexit vote, the outcome of the Syrian crisis. You said the Islamic State would benefit if Bashar al-Assad was pushed out and you predicted Trump’s win. How do you explain it?

Not the Islamic State, but al-Qaeda at the time, and I said the U.S. administration was helping fund them. See, you have to have courage to say things others don’t. I was lucky financially in life, that I didn’t need to work for a living and can spend all my time thinking. When Trump was running for election, I said what he says makes sense to a grocery store owner. Because the grocery guy can say Trump is wrong because he can see where he is wrong. But with Obama, he can’t understand what he’s saying, so the grocery man doesn’t know where he is wrong.

Is it a choice between dumbing down versus over-intellectualisation, then?

Exactly. Trump never ran for archbishop, so you never saw anything in his behaviour that was saintly, and that was fine. Whereas Obama behaved like the Archbishop of Canterbury, and was going to do good but people didn’t feel their lives were better. As I said, if it was a shopkeeper from Aleppo, or a grocery store owner in Mumbai, people would have liked them as much as Trump. What he says makes common sense, asking why are we paying so much for this rubbish or why do we need these complex taxes, or why do we want lobbyists. You can call Trump’s plain-speaking what you like. But the way intellectuals treat people who don’t agree with them isn’t good either. I remember I had an academic friend who supported Brexit, and he said he knew what it meant to be a leper in the U.K. It was the same with supporting Trump in the U.S.

But there were valid reasons for people to be worried about Trump too.

Well, if you’re a businessman, for example, what Trump said didn’t bother you. The intellectual class of no more than 2,00,000 people in the U.S. don’t represent everyone upset with Trump. The real problem is the ‘faux-expert problem’, one who doesn’t know what he doesn’t know, and assumes he knows what people think. An electrician doesn’t have that problem.

Is the election of Trump part of a global phenomena? You have commented on the similarity to the election of Narendra Modi in India.

Well, with Trump, Modi, Brexit, and now France, there are some similar problems in those countries. What you are hearing is people getting fed up with the ruling class. This is not fascism. It has nothing to do with fascism. It has to do with the faux-experts problem and a world with too many experts. If we had a different elite, we may not see the same problem.

There are other similarities, to quote from studies of populist movements worldwide: these leaders are majoritarian, they build on resentment, they use social media for direct access to their voters, and they can take radical decisions.

I often say that a mathematician thinks in numbers, a lawyer in laws, and an idiot thinks in words. These words don’t amount to anything. I think you have to draw the conclusion that there is a global riot against pseudo-experts. I saw it with Brexit, and Nigel Farage [leader of the U.K. Independence Party], who was a trader for 15 years, said the problem with the government was that none of them had ever had a proper job. Being a bureaucrat is not a proper job.

As a businessperson, you have a point about experts and pseudo-experts who you say are ‘left-wing’. How do you explain the other parts to the phenomenon that aren’t economic: the xenophobia, Islamophobia, misogyny, etc.?

I don’t understand how a left-wing person can defend Salafism, or religious extremism. In a democracy, you can allow people to have any view, but they can’t come with a message to destroy democracy. Why should people who come to the West come with a message to finish the West? This is where the discourse goes haywire. So in Yemen, the [Saudi] intervention is good, but the intervention [by Russia] in Aleppo shouldn’t be allowed. I don’t think Trump was racist when he said Mexican criminals shouldn’t be allowed into the U.S.; he was targeting criminals. If you are Naziphobic, you are not against Germans. If I oppose Salafism, I am not an Islamophobe. Obama also deported Mexicans and refused to accept immigrants.

Is anti-globalisation a part of this sentiment?

I am not anti-globalisation, but I am against big global corporations. One of the reasons is what they cost. Today, every project sees cost overruns because these projects have to factor in global risks as well. In nature there is an ‘island effect’. The number of species on an island drops significantly when you go to the mainland. Similarly, when you open up your small economies, you lose some of your ethnicity or diversity. Artisans are being killed by globalisation. Think of the effect on so many artists who have been put out of work while people are buying wrinkle-free shirts and cheap mobile phones. I’m a localist. The problem is globalisation comes through large global corporates that are predatory, and so we want to counter its ill-effects.

Where do you see the world moving now? Further right, or will it revert to the centre?

I don’t think it will go left or right, and I don’t know about the short term. But I think in the long term, the world can only survive if it lives like nature does. Many smaller units of governance, and a collection of super islands with some separation, quick decision-making, and visible implementation. Lots of Switzerlands, that’s what we need. What we need is not leaders, we don’t need them. We just need someone at the top who doesn’t mess the system up.


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UndertheDRADIS's picture

So these Anti-Freedom Assholes are actually targeting the wrong people?

PrometeyBezkrilov's picture

‘faux-expert problem’.....especially if these so called “experts” are from the chosen tribe and as a result of their “expertise” everyone loses a shirt, and they get richer.

anonnn's picture

The more "experts" on any subjet, the less is known about it.

Duc888's picture



"When Trump was running for election, I said what he says makes sense to a grocery store owner. Because the grocery guy can say Trump is wrong because he can see where he is wrong. But with Obama, he can’t understand what he’s saying, so the grocery man doesn’t know where he is wrong."

So what this guy is saying is that Obomba was talking over our heads?  Where the fuck do people like this come from?  Like Flyoverland is collectively that fucking stupid that we couldn't tell that Obomba was all shuck and jive?

  Fuck this asshole "expert".

ThreeRs's picture

I took it to mean, with Obama, he (meaning Obama) can’t understand what he’s saying, so the grocery man doesn’t know where he is wrong."


mofreedom's picture

You are correct, Taleb knows how to structure a sentence in English.

Insurrector's picture

Double shit.

I can't understand Trump most of the time when he is off the teleprompter.

Guess I should ask my grocer to explain it to me.

mofreedom's picture

He's saying:  THEY suck schlong!!!

Akzed's picture

He's saying 0b00ba was a bullshitter the average shopkeeper couldn't understand, and therefore couldn't criticize. I would add that when shopkeepers figured out that he was a queer Marxist foreigner married to a tranny borrowing someone else's kids, that shopkeeper was roundly called a racist for his troubles.

GotNuttin'todo's picture

An idiot thinks in words.

Well ... there goes the internet.

Insurrector's picture

Shit, now I'm trying not to think in words.

Not working well for me.  Anybody else?

shovelhead's picture

I think you're going to have to give him a little metaphorical license on that one.

Words meaning vague concepts as opposed to mathematical proofs and the like, not as a literal "words".

Jeez, it's not that hard, kids.

Insurrector's picture

I meet his metaphorical license and raise it with my comic license. 

Sometimes my comic license has a 'literal' implementation.

Its been a long time since I was called a kid or carded at a liquor store!  Youth is wasted on the young!

ThreeRs's picture

Let's not miss the Math in what this man said: The intellectual class of no more than 2,00,000 people in the U.S. don’t represent everyone


How many are we? Versus them?


I like Math. You can solve anything if you find true data to work with. Anything you do won't work otherwise. Just like life. Reality is, everything else just bites.

UndertheDRADIS's picture

Is there an extra zero or an extra comma here?

Raging Debate's picture

Three Rs- Yep. That number of people controlling capital to buy governments sounds about right to me. His argument of capital over labor is an old but true argument and it goes in cycles. People with title and capital buy the government and push societal costs onto laborers.

Of course innovation suffers for this, you get higher costs with monopolies and crappier services while if your starved of capital the memo is, you just suck and that's why. Of course 'experts' in the top through downstream parrot this. It helps keep you out and down from even bothering attempting to compete. At a certain point it becomes obvious that expert telling you that you suck and that is why you fail does not compute with multiple attempts to compete on the ground.

 Let's say I sell weed, break the law and are given a full pass to break the law. I get rich, have nice bitches and lakefront property and get stoned half the time , banging the bitches, eating great food, etc. Then I tell you over and over you just suck at everything. Think the common man may get a little pissed? The breakdown of society and reformation is a justice concep . Always was, always will be. We either all follow the rules or none of us should. It is that simple. 

Treason Season's picture

"The breakdown of society and reformation is a justice concept."

All the laws in the world don't make up for a lack of morality. When a blow job from a bubblehead is more important than one's sense of humanity we find ourselves in the world we live in.

missionshk's picture

as a self professed expert, i declare that the news media, msm, are all sicko experts from hell..  

Jim Shoesesta's picture

I cant read this shit, Taleb is a moron who is almost always wrong, yet morons continue to listen.  

GoldenDonuts's picture

OK so how much did you make with out of the money puts in 2008?  A guy who made "fuck you" money during the worst crash in my lifetime is worth listening to.  Also he is demonstratively correct that nothing is fixed.  But go ahead and buy your snapface IPO and see what happens.

ebear's picture

THanks for your expert opinion.

Where can I buy your book?

VWAndy's picture

Psuedo experts? More like frauds. Come on people! They are just plain old lying sacks of shit.

  Its not that they are all lying sacks of shit. Thats just human nature. Its that we will fall for all this stupid shit. And boy we have one hell of a track record of buying the most rediculous BS so long as it fits into our silly ass beliefs systems. The lefties think the Ds are the anti war party? How fucked up in the head can they be? Well the righties actually think the Rs are the law and order party? Pure horse shit!

  Some people here on ZH actually think the Fed is incompetent? I say no the Fed knows what they are doing. The actions show intent. FFS!

  Its time we all looked in the mirror and stop fooling ourselves. Dont like getting played? Stop being such an easy mark!

bundas kenyer receptek's picture
bundas kenyer receptek (not verified) Feb 7, 2017 12:05 PM

That's vhy zey sent me, ich bin ein Expert..

HenryKissingerChurchill's picture

I love to read this guy, it is by far the coolest Philosopher alive.

Cruel Joke's picture

We seem to agree on Taleb.

This is something I picked up from a tweet he did a few days ago:

Nassim Nicholas Taleb - The new Dictionary of Received Ideas


         IYI Expression:           -            Translation:

  • Populist movement - Protest against serially incompetent bureaucrats without skin in the game
  • Elite - Back office people who never made money on their own, never lost their own money
  • Populism - People voting without taking instructions from the New York Times
  • Fake news - Fake news, with special exclusions such as WMD
  • Science - Scientism
  • Economists - People who give economic advice, but with their income coming largely from charities
  • Tyrant - Someone who never had power before
  • Racist - Someone who believes that Mexico has an adverse selection problem, but not Cuba
  • Anti-globalization - Skeptical of the propaganda by large corporate vultures
everlearner's picture

MSM will not mention anything he says, that's guaranteed!!!

Able Ape's picture

PhDs in Math from MIT should never have been let loose in the financial markets; it would have been better if they simply understood the Bottom Line and the word: PROFIT...

cheech_wizard's picture


Similarly, when you open up your small economies, you lose some of your ethnicity or diversity. Artisans are being killed by globalisation. Think of the effect on so many artists who have been put out of work while people are buying wrinkle-free shirts and cheap mobile phones. I’m a localist. The problem is globalisation comes through large global corporates that are predatory, and so we want to counter its ill-effects.

Standard Disclaimer: For these statements I must applaud him. There is an artistic ability that runs in the family. I recognized at a very early age that art would never pay the rent. (Hell, selling firewood in the US pays better than what most artists make.) Globalization does indeed cheapen the entire world and what is lost to globalization will never be seen nor recovered.

Reaper's picture

Experts are only the elite's servants. They serve their master or else.

VWAndy's picture

 You dont get the monicker of expert without being FOS. I doubt anyone would call me an expert on anything. Even though my shit will stand up to more good questions then most of the experts stuff does.

itstippy's picture

I feel like a failure because I'm not an expert at anything.  I'm surrounded by experts daily, and the internet has given me access to expert opinions on every imaginable subject.  Yet the more I hear and learn and try to understand the more I realize that I don't know jack shit.  Sure, I can do household plumbing, electrical, mechanical, welding, and carpentry work.  I can install software, set up a home network, cook dinner, and cut down trees, basic shit like that.  But when I run into a thorny problem I have to ask for advice from someone who knows what the Hell they're doing in the field.

And when it comes to big issues like world peace, education, global warming, high finance, geopolitics, and transgender roles in modern culture I'm ever so grateful that there are experts available to tell me how to think and act.   

shovelhead's picture

I'm just glad that You tube showed me that it was 5X easier to replace the belt on my laundry center by taking off the front of the dryer instead of the back where its located.

You tube. Where the charlatan and true experts democratically coexist in peace.

Pasadena Phil's picture

"...the faux-experts problem and a world with too many experts...."

That is why every intellectual discipline has been elevated to religious status. We don't care about the science anymore. All that matters is that "most scientists" agree. And so "scientism" has replaced science.

Same with the various religions, the various Christian denominations particularly, who have surrendered so many of their absolute morality in their desperate hopes to again see their churches filled. And so believers are being replaced by political constituents. Morality-lite with its "something for everyone" menus has replaced the simplicity and beauty of absolute moral principles . Chaos has replaced order. The consensus of everything has lead us down the path to nothingness.

The pursuit of truth is being replaced by various "isms" which used to be referred to as "false gods". If our leaders no longer lead from sound moral principles, what good can possibly come from following them?

Bemused Observer's picture

That 'science' BS really frosts me. 'Global warming", climate change, whatever, is supposedly "decided", with no further discussion necessary...really?

What true scientist EVER says something like that? EVER?

Scientific discovery comes when true scientists QUESTION the prevailing wisdom! Otherwise we'd all still believe the Earth is flat, everything revolves around it, and that dinosaur bones are really the remains of the 'monsters' in Genesis.

These so-called scientists sound more like the creationists they ridicule than the creationists themselves, who at least have the honesty to admit THEIR beliefs are faith-based.

Insurrector's picture

Have you personally reviewed the climate change data?  The data is pretty overwhelming.  It takes crazy conspiracy theories to deny it - most that reject it have not looked at the data.

Faith has nothing to do with honesty.  Faith is revelling in personal blindness, and rejecting logic or scientific method.


VWAndy's picture

 Yes some of us actually have. Turns out much of it was made up from whole cloth. The models did not pan out either.

 Did you even notice when they changed the tune from global warming to climate change? Thats a pretty good clue to just how FOS that line of BS is.

Insurrector's picture

You call that proof?


Do a bit of research.  Anti-intellectual troglodytes seized on the occasional 'colder than normal' day to demonstrate that the earth was not warming.  Like with all systems, local conditions don't always reveal more systemic trends.  Heat is energy, and adding heat to the system emphasizes patterns.

THe name change was a poor attempt to prevent anti-intellectual troglodytes from braying their absurd counterclaims.

If you dispute the extensive measurements and data archives, can you explain why the glaciers are receding at an alarming rate and the Arctic passage is almost free of ice in the winter?  Why is the polar ice cap melting so fast?  Why are there more icebergs in the Atlantic? 

Raging Debate's picture

Insurrection - Why is the ice thickening in Antarctica? Ever hear of Archimedes and displacement? 

VWAndy's picture

 Na budy your the one making the claims. You get to pony up. Show us why the models did not pan out.

Chet Ricco's picture

I agree that man made global warming exists......in a computer model on a hard drive. In the real world.....not so much.

Pasadena Phil's picture

What frosts me the most is when scientists start opining about whether or not God exists. Scientismists are certainly free to offer their personal opinions but not when they pretend to be speaking from science. By definition, if there is no testable hypothesis to apply to the question it is not science. Quantum physics has been stuck in the realm of philosophy ever since the effort was made almost a century ago to reconcile the physics of the "big" with that of the "small". The best they can do is balance their equations using fudge factors which the fascinate us with by describing them as previously unknown dimensions.

These new dimensions are what allow them to claim that time travel and exceeding the speed of light are possible. They continually get away with falsely claiming that "Einstein proved that..." like CNBC pundits citing Warren Buffet quotes rather than applying logic. A little common sense goes a long way these days in debunking modern "science".

And don't get me started on "creationists". Flip side of the same coin.

Raging Debate's picture

Pasadena Phil - Physics and discussions of origination generally do not mix well. As for potential dimensions, at least 4th or 5th I do find it fascinating. That energy can be at two places at the same time is pretty cool. 

Pasadena Phil's picture

I am fascinated by all of it and encourage pursuing answers to the questions. But scientists need to return to knowing the barriers that separate science from philosophy. Dimensions six through eleven are, in my opinion as a non-scientist, based on little more than equations forced to balance by adding a fudge factor.

CalTech's Dr David Goodstein (and his wife) produced an excellent series for PBS many years ago called "The Mechanical Universe" where the opening and closing comments made a crystal clear distinction between science and philosophy. To paraphrase his closing comment, "Will we ever understand the universe? Well in order to understand the universe, we would have to build a model of it. Why would we do that? We already have one. It's called the universe."

Most of the science series I have watched (at least before Neil Degrasse Tyson entered the scene) respected that distinction. Even "The Elegant Universe" By Brian Greene discusses that subject and concludes that until they come up with a testable hypothesis, it will remain in the realm of philosophy, interesting but of no practical use.

Which leaves me to appreciate the value of continuing studying and hypothecating on the subject. But one of the possibilities that used to be taken as a given by scientists of the past was the possibility (if not the certainty) of the existence of God as the explanation. Modern science seems determined to "prove" the opposite. Why is that? Why is that important? Gee, $I$ $wonder$ $what$ $that$ $reason$ $could$ $be$?

Raging Debate's picture

Pasadena Phil - Interesting comment. I don't bother thinking much of dimension 6-11 or beyond because I agree that there isn't much to be done with it. I don't think it helps access 4d never mind the 5th. 

 I am not sure though about money being a reason to disclude a creator or originator. Replicating our universe seems to be exactly where we are going. In existence, we may just be adding a small but relevant amount of learning to a collective by replicating and adding small changes/distortions. I am not completely sure. I myself can simply say on origination I believe it, but that doesn't mean I am going to stop asking how or why. Maybe my maker has told me some, maybe it is a process of pattern recognition, replication etc. but I would rather explore if the latter is true or not true. 

Cause God told me, is not good enough to learn anything new. If that means such a creator despises me, we'll fuck that entity then. You can't create a being to ask how and why then condemning it for doing just that. 

 I do understand say a Descartes that says asking and exploring more just lead to a lot more details and work but I do not believe in eternal details. I would like to have more discussion how an originator may have done this or that perceives this or that, but to me at least understanding an outline of details alludes me to think or feel a certain way about a creator. It may be too that we just have endless loops of evolution from gadfly to God with the latter glad it is time for a recreation (out of boredom). I am not sure nor do I want to build a following (religion) out of those opinions, faith whatever you want to call it.