Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life Hardcover – 20 Feb. 2018
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A thinker for uncertain times. . . If you want to better understand populism, Trump, Brexit and the anti-establishment backlash then Taleb, of no party or clique, is your man (Josh Glancy Sunday Times)
A great iconoclast. . . Taleb, a Wall Street trader turned essayist, is a thinker touched by genius. . . The big picture he presents is powerfully argued and offers myriad policy implications (Matthew Syed The Times)
Nassim Nicholas Taleb is the Richard Wagner of uncertainty. While the Ring Cycle of the German composer/librettist portrayed the struggle of the gods in a series of operas, the Incerto series of books by the Lebanese-American author is devoted to humans -- specifically how we deal with the endemic risk in our all-too-finite existence (Dominic Lawson Sunday Times)
As always with Taleb, this is a fascinating set of ideas. And he's right. People with skin in the game learn how the game works. Without it, they don't (William Leith Evening Standard)
Taleb has succeeded in creating a full system that goes from empirics to ethics, which is exceedingly rare in the modern world. . . Very few people are able to create systems of thought that go across multiple disciplines and display internal coherence. This the uniqueness and importance of Nassim Taleb (Branko Milanovic, author of Global Inequality)
One of the most fun, enjoyable and yet deep books I've read in a long time. . . Reading Taleb's books is always an adventure. They are frighteningly learned, and require frequent trips to the dictionary and to Wikipedia for full enjoyment. However, this labour is well-rewarded and every page brings something that is exciting or useful to understand (Dhirendra Kumar Economic Times)
A superhero of the mind (Boyd Tonkin)
A godlike oracle on the subject of risk (John Authers Financial Times)
Taleb's insatiable polymathic curiosity knows no bounds (New Statesman)
About the Author
Nassim Nicholas Taleb spent twenty-one years as a risk taker before becoming a researcher in philosophical, mathematical, and (mostly) practical problems with probability. Although he spends most of his time as a flâneur, meditating in cafes across the planet, he is currently Distinguished Professor at New York University's Tandon School of Engineering but self-funds his own research.
His books, Antifragile, The Black Swan, The Bed of Procrustes and Fooled by Randomness (part of a multi-volume collection called Incerto, Latin for uncertainty), have been translated into thirty-seven languages. Taleb has authored more than fifty scholarly papers as backup to Incerto, ranging from international affairs and risk management to statistical physics. He refuses all awards and honours as they debase knowledge by turning it into competitive sports.
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UPDATE: I did carry on to the end of the book for old times' sake. I left it feeling that Taleb is like a friend who has some dodgy politics, likes to make a lot 0f "controversial" remarks, occasionally makes some insightful points, can be amusing and can also be a crashing bore. In other words, you're pleased to see your old friend but rather relieved when he finally leaves and glad to have a bit of time away from each other before meeting up again.
Some 1,150 days of seclusion in the years following The Black Swan (2007) afforded time not only to devour the 550 or so books listed in the bibliography to the much lengthier Antifragile (2012) but also to develop what he himself previously detested - the random use of borrowed wisdom (though it was fascinating to read why use of the wheel initially disappeared from the Levant after the Arab invasion) - and to wield his keyboard repeatedly and unkindly to hammer perceived nails in the shape of some fine fellow professionals with whom he now finds himself increasingly and violently disagreeing.
In Skin in the Game we see these aberrations taken even further with surprisingly gratuitous and sarcastic references ("Hillary Monsanto-Malmaison, sometimes known as Hillary Clinton" and Joseph Stiglitz as “Intellectual Yet Idiot") along with random Daily Mail-type stories about how increased halal lamb imports from New Zealand and the numbers of automatic shifting vehicles are instances of minority dictatorship and how Italians regard McDonalds in Milan Centrale as refuge from a risky meal. Mr Taleb has of course written that it’s only when you don’t care about your reputation that you tend to have a good one, but it seems to me that after accumulating a steady stream of positive returns he has given us his own unfortunate, highly unexpected event.
In many ways this is a deeply moral book with important messages for how we live. This realization becomes suddenly clear in the rather poetic epilogue, which I loved. Collective action (the game) generates many meaningful benefits, but, to be symmetrical and ethical, it always requires contribution of players, and contribution implies risk (the skin). Taleb has no time for people in authority who don't get this and consequently promote dangerous ideas which lead to ignorant policy or business decisions. For them he reserves his full scorn (for example, in his view, Monsanto and its dangerous development of GM crops). Through ignorance, they risk catastrophically ruining the systems we depend on for everyone for ever.
On the downside, Taleb's style of relentlessly 'speaking truth to power' can feel a bit uncomfortable and negative. However we are compensated by his practical, ethical and logical reasoning - made more clear in an appendix devoted to the maths that underpins the conclusions, and further leavened with fascinating personal stories.
By the way, like many books it's one worth starting at the back with the glossary, where you will be able to learn to speak 'Taleb'.
Top international reviews
This is important in the longer run, because non perishable things such as ideas, lifestyle, dietary habits, religions that have survived for a long time, being sufficiently stressed by time, will survive for much longer (Lindy's Effect). But the critical piece here is that the agents espousing these non-perishables should have a skin in the game.
The contrast is the rent seekers, or bureaucrats who only get the upside of their actions (bonuses), but pass on the downside to others citing uncertainty. Thus they get to be in decision making for a long time without being affected by the ill-effects of those decisions.
The book applies the heuristic to multiple areas. Interesting concepts covered in the books include Minority Rule (How intransigent minorities determine the preference of majority), Intellectual Yet Idiots (People who confuse complex systems for simple systems, and prescribe appealing but harmful solutions), Rationality of Religions (The do's & dont's in Religions inspire actions from followers, and these actions have enabled the adherants to survive. Rationality can only be discussed in the context of survival, or rather the avoidance of systemic ruin).
As usual Taleb is witty, names names (Bob Rubin, Thaler, Saudi Princes), acerbic but very insightful.
One thing that Taleb misses out on is application of Lindy's Effect to the relatively longer survival of Lithuanians, Irish and the Hindus who did not have the warrior but the priestly class at the top. Societies which had a warrior class at the top caved in to the invasion by semetic religions in a very short duration. However the adherants of these religions resisted converting to the invading Semetic religions for the longest period. So Lindy does seem to have a role to play here.
Final word: Excellent book. Will be revisiting this one many more times.
Taleb has an Archie Bunker/Don Cherry approach to writing. He rants and runs down just about anyone or anything he does not like. Throughout the book, he refers to any academic as an intellectual yet idiot. This is just one example. Taleb has a long list of people he does not like. But this is not just name-calling. Taleb backs ups his statements with all sorts of examples. In fact, these rants are the entertaining part of the book. The reader can expect to laugh on more than a few occasions.
This book was a fun read. Along the way, the reader will also examine many new perspectives on our modern way of life.
The style is arrogant and sometimes disturbing. Who is he that he can claim that all journalists just write what other journalisits say without checking it? Just think of all the journalists which die or get prisoned during their work.
I was continuously struggling with me to stop reading. My recommendation is to spend the time and money on something different.
The book deserves a permanent place in your library as one may read it several times for assimilating the facts , ideas mentioned. Found the book to be a difficult to understand at certain stages but enjoyed reading through till end. Not the mention the Epilogue, readers don't forget (ignore) to read the same, the author has finished the writing with very impressive long maxim which pretty much summarizes the full book, " No muscles without strength, No friendship without trust, No opinion without consequence......................................... and most of all nothing without skin in the game.
The author has convinced without doubt that whatever should be learned,practiced, observed, aspired should always have something at stake i.e. SKIN IN THE GAME.
A MUST READ, THANKS TALEB, THANKS AMAZON ||||||
"I for my part spend twenty-three years in a full-time, highly demanding, extremly stressful profession while studying, researching, and writing my first three books at night, it lowered (in fact, eliminated) my tolerance for career-buidling reseach."
Weiterhin werden persönliche Probleme, die der Autor mit anderen Autoren/Kollegen zu haben scheint, kontinuierlich angesprochen, sodass es so wirkt, als diene das Buch primär der Diskreditierung dieser Menschen.
Inhaltlich hat das Buch ein paar wenige interessante Aspekte, die jedoch gerade durch die Arroganz des Autors und mangelnder kritischer Eigenreflexion stark an Gehalt verlieren.
I loved the section on minority rule in particular, which the author calls the mother of asymmetries. I think this section is very insightful into the art of authentic leadership.
Overall this is a great guide to BS detection and avoidance and ensuring that people without skin in the game don't continue to reap rewards they don't deserve or influence matters based on their self-interest.
I agree with the author that the silver rule is more robust that the golden rule however I still prefer the platinum rule from Tony Alessandra.
This book is also a great guide to living an ethical life. I love this "not everything that happens happens for a reason, but everything that survives survives for a reason."
In my humble opinion at least …
»Skin in the Game« – more that the last book in his *Incerto* tetralogy (»Antifragile«) did – shifts the focus from things financial for good and relates Taleb’s theses on risk, probability, asymmetries, and reciprocity to almost every other sphere of human life.
You need not agree with every point. Taleb is a proponent of discourse, of (tough, fair and fact-based) discussion, not a herald of unshakable and eternal lore. I hope to read more from him soon. And I wish there’d be more voices like Taleb’s.
The examples of what is going wrong in our society are interesting and true.
As all books written in this kind of genre, Skin in the Game doesn‘t come up with a final concept or any answers, it just gives it readers some more arguments for a certain or their already established opinion.
Taleb always takes human thought to another level. An example above all, the first lines: the giant Antaeus kept his powers only if he remains connected to the Earth (his mother). So it is any role in society: without skin in the game, soul in the game and contact with reality, we become the role losing the characteristic of a person.