Wednesday, November 19, 2008


I am pretty near the end of Fooled by Randomness now and whilst I am enjoying the book, the author is incredibly arrogant and that is matched by an equal dose of being incredibly opinionated. This is not an entirely endearing style of writing. But it is an interesting read nonetheless.

One of the things he said was that he tries to avoid situations where people criticise him – so he doesn’t read reviews of his work, or deal with unsolicited comments on his books etc and compares himself to when Odysseus got sailors to tie him to a mast so he could hear the Sirens call but not be enticed to his death by them. His sailors had wax stuffed in their ears so they could not hear the Sirens call, but could ensure that eh didn’t break his binds. Taleb, the author, compares himself to the sailors and says that he does the equivalent of sticking wax in his ears so he does not get distracted from his course. I don’t think it’s that he can’t take criticism, I think it is that he is so committed to what he is doing that he wants nothing to distract him from it. And really quite arrogant that there isn’t really much he can learn from others. Whilst I think his book is really interesting, I find his approach to life more widely bizarre. Surely we can always learn things from other people and it’s about sorting the chaff from the wheat – and learning to take criticism or how to respond to it, is part of growing up.

He also said:

“We are designed to respond to hostility with hostility. I have enough enemies to add some spice to my life, but I sometimes wish I had a few more (I rarely go to the movies I need the entertainment). Life would be unbearably bland if we had no enemies on whom to waste efforts and energy”

He does like to make quite controversial statements, but there are just so many things wrong with what he said. Whilst our instinct may be to respond with hostility to a given situation, surely it is better to aspire to ways that are more measured and about achieving peace and drawing a line under hostility. Surely we should aspire to a life where we have no enemies and don’t have anyone to hate or who hates us. What a pointless waste of energy to hate anyone, and ultimately, even if we cannot forgive, surely for our own sake, if not for that of the other person, we should seek to find a way forward that is about no longer letting any given situation keep us within its hold. That quote strikes me as the words of someone who has never really taken the time to comprehend what they really mean.

Choose peace, even if it can be a painful road to get there – and don’t wish for enemies or you might just get them. I don't mean that in any terribly profound way, more as a statement of fact. I am not impressed by anyone advocating actively pursuing gaining more enemies. I despair a bit that anyone would think this was a good thing to include in a book, particuarly one mainly based on mathematical principles.

No comments: