Great podcast with much wisdom.
Let me push back on a few points though.
It’s great that Taleb sees the transformative power of the internet starting in the 90s, but I wonder about his analysis of stars taking the gains.
While that is no doubt true, the question is how much that trend contributed to income inequality.
Aren’t Tiger Woods, Luciano Pavarotti, and J.K. Rowling a drop in the pond compared to the richest 1-5% that skewed the income inequality distribution recently?
Rather, I suspect that the inequality came from professional and technical positions being highly renumerated in the last decade or two, to try and approach the productivity of these highly skilled people.
For two people digging ditches or working on a factory floor, the productivity of any worker is fundamentally limited compared to any other worker, at most 2-3X.
Whereas with information work this multiple explodes to 10-50X- this has been shown to be true in computer science- I believe much of the income inequality came from the attempt to compensate in equal proportion to this productivity difference.
It is likely that employers then got into the star mentality and overpaid, just as you often see sports team owners overpay for star athletes, and might have been better off trying to raise the productivity of everyone by spreading best practices from the most productive to everyone else.
Either way, the opera singers and golf superstars that Taleb talks about will soon see a great reverse in their unique positions.
The internet initially augmented their positions greatly, now it will tear them down.
One Katie Couric on CBS will be replaced by hundreds of news anchors reading the news online, helping flatten out the income distribution in the process.
It was interesting to hear Taleb make Kling’s point that regulators helped cause this mess.
It would have been interesting to hear Taleb expand on his solution of nationalization followed by most of the market becoming unregulated and why he felt some portion of the market would need to stay nationalized.
Regarding his skepticism of theories and directed research, isn’t it possible that the scientific frontier expanded greatly in the last century and that both directed research and tinkering would have had much lower success rates as a result?
Although, the point he might be making is that researchers always have to be on the lookout for secondary effects that they weren’t looking for, rather than throwing that secondary data away, because that’s much more likely to be beneficial than the original hypothesis.
I think we ultimately have to theorize, Taleb’s point is simply that we need to emphasize empirical evidence much more where we can and not be so confident in existing theories.
As for the benefits of religion, it would be nice if it were merely used as a moral code but one can point to religious wars as an example of religious theorizing and not just following the practices.
We have to theorize, we just have to be much more thoughtful, empirical, and humble when we do.