Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Randomness rules

How much control do we really have over events, or even over our lives?

Not much if you believe Nassim Nicholas Taleb. I've read two of his books and his basic thesis seems to be, 'don't think you're in charge of things, you're not'.

According to his theory, politicians are not in control of events, nor are traders in control of the stock market. Everything that controls our society is a random event.

If you're scratching your head, or reading this and thinking, 'what a load of bollocks, I am in control', consider this: Did you decide your genetic makeup, who your parents were going to be, which country or period of time you would be born in? Didn't think so. Your very creation as a sentient, independent being was a random event.

Can you control the housing market? Who does? Can you control currency fluctuations? Who does? So how much control have you had, or do you have in any aspect of your life?

Taleb makes a convincing argument in favour of randomness that is hard to repudiate, though whether you believe him or not is up to you.

If you want to read more, his two main books are 'Fooled by Randomness' and 'The Black Swan'.

One last thing: if you believe in the accuracy of the Bell Curve, then 'The Black Swan' may destroy some cherished ideas. You have been warned.

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