Friday, October 07, 2011

Taleb's Latest BB Riff

People often email me Nassim Taleb rants because I've written on him previously (see Black Swan review, Bed of Procrustes review), and I must say I enjoyed his latest. From the latest Bloomberg article on Spitznagel and Taleb, Spitz comes off as an incredibly fun guy, whereas I think this Taleb quote only got in the because the writer knew it was over the top:
“I’m not interested in money; I’m not interested in finance,” Taleb says. “I’m comfortable enough as it is. I don’t need it. Finance should be a footnote in my bio, not a central component. Why should I waste time in finance when my influence as an intellectual is so high?”

I hope someday he gets stuck in an elevator with Tom Friedman, and then after a couple hours one might realize that if there exist at least one bloviating best-seller, perhaps there exist more than one.

Elsewhere in the article someone notes that Universa’s clients lost about 4 percent in both 2009 and 2010. I'm skeptical that represents his average investor loss, as opposed to some cherry-picked account, and I'll write a check for $1000 to a charity of Taleb/Spitznagel's choice if that's true (just send the audited consolidated returns for Universa). Allowing random people to spout data like that allows funds to intimate performance without taking responsibility for such statements, highlighting another regulation that is worse than nothing (by law hedge funds aren't allowed to mention their record in general media, but if you say something and they don't comment, who's to say?).


Eric Falkenstein said...

VXX? Genius.

Matt said...

Intellectual is not quite the word to describe him. Rather, a man with intellectual pretensions.

Anonymous said...

You are taking him too seriously.

He clearly doesn't really mean half of what he says.

How else could he claim to never have used Black-Scholes in his paper with Espen Haug, but in his Dynamic Hedging book vigorously defend it across several chapters for its simplicity over more robust models?

He makes grossly hyperbolic statements to get what is actually a more nuanced point across. It's a technique best suited for cocktail parties and elevators.

I think this might be a cultural misunderstanding for you-- New York is a native habitat for a**holes like Taleb. Less common in the midwest.