Taleb, Nassim Nicholas 1960-

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Taleb, Nassim Nicholas 1960-

PERSONAL:

Born 1960, in Amioun, Lebanon; son of N. Taleb (an oncologist and researcher) and Minerva Ghosn. Education: Wharton School, M.B.A.; University of Paris, Ph.D.

ADDRESSES:

Home—New York, NY, and London, England. Office—London Business School, Regent's Park, London NW1 4SA, England. E-mail—[email protected]omness.com.

CAREER:

Writer, researcher, trader, and educator. Empirica, L.L.C., founder; London Business School, London, England, professor of marketing and codirector of Decision Science Laboratory, 2007—. Union Bank of Switzerland, former managing director and head trader; CS-First Boston, former worldwide chief derivatives trader; Banque Indosuez, former chief currency derivatives trader; CIBC-Wood Gundy, former managing director and worldwide head of financial option arbitrage; Bankers Trust, former derivatives arbitrage trader; BNP-Paribas, former proprietary trader; Chicago Mercantile Exchange, former option market maker. Has worked as a professor at University of Massachusetts at Amherst, New York University, and the Wharton School Financial Institutions Center.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Derivatives Hall of Fame inductee, 2001.

WRITINGS:

Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in the Markets and in Life, Texere (New York, NY), 2001.

The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, Random House (New York, NY), 2007.

Also author of the technical document Dynamic Hedging: Managing Vanilla and Exotic Options, Wiley (New York, NY), 1997. Contributor to periodicals, including New York Times, Forbes, Journal of Portfolio Management, Journal of Behavioral Finance, American Statistician, Complexity, Quantitative Finance, Greenwich Roundtable Quarterly, and Journal of the International Comparative Literature Association. Fooled by Randomness has been translated into nineteen languages.

SIDELIGHTS:

A statement on Nassim Nicholas Taleb's home page is representative of his philosophies as a writer, researcher, and businessman: "My major hobby is teasing people who take themselves and the quality of their knowledge too seriously and those who don't have the guts to sometimes say: I don't know." Although his technical document Dynamic Hedging: Managing Vanilla and Exotic Options has been widely used in both professional and academic contexts, it was 2001's bestselling Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in the Markets and in Life that earned Taleb a wide audience. The book examines how randomness pervades even the most statistically analyzed areas, and how researchers and the general public alike search for stable and predictable patterns when often none exist. Booklist reviewer David Rouse found the book a "meandering discourse on the roles of probability, luck, and risk." National Review Online contributor James K. Glassman agreed, but added a crucial distinction: "Taleb's book, which is full not only of infuriating meanderings and off-putting self-importance but also of extreme brilliance, changed the way I think about investing."

Taleb expounded on many of the ideas found in Fooled by Randomness in the follow-up title, The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable. A Black Swan, Taleb writes, is an unpredictable, extreme event that can have a significant or even catastrophic impact. Financially speaking, the existence of Black Swans conflicts with standard statistical models which do not allow for rarities, as in the case of the market collapse of 1987. Other examples include the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the career trajectory of pop stars. Discussing the real-life implications of Black Swans with Wired writer James Surowiecki, Taleb explained why their existence is often justified: "After they happen, in retrospect, we think that Black Swans were predictable. We think that if we can explain why something happened in the past, we can explain what will happen in the future." He further remarked that Americans are "willing to trade the possibility of failure for the chance at a big upside. No other country is willing to do this."

Writing in Business Week Online, Peter Coy found The Black Swan "essentially Fooled by Randomness all over again, except bigger, better grounded, and with more advice about how to live one's life in the presence of deep unpredictability." Coy concluded that the book is "a richly enjoyable read with an important message." "Deftly weaving meditation with hard-edged analysis," remarked an Economist reviewer, "Mr. Taleb succeeds in bringing skeptical empiricism to the masses." Gilbert Taylor commented in a review for Booklist: "Taleb projects a strong presence here that will tempt outside-the-box thinkers into giving him a look."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, August 1, 2001, David Rouse, review of Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in the Markets and in Life, p. 2065; March 15, 2007, Gilbert Taylor, review of The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, p. 9.

Business Week Online, April 27, 2007, Peter Coy, "Expect the Unimaginable: Nassim Nicholas Taleb's New Book Offers Some Erudite Advice on Living with Deep Unpredictability," review of The Black Swan.

Economist, June 2, 2007, "The Perils of Prediction: Uncertainty," review of The Black Swan, p. 92.

ONLINE

Nassim Nicholas Taleb Home Page,http://www.fooledbyrandomness.com (July 23, 2007).

National Review Online,http://www.nationalreview.com (June 23, 2004), James K. Glassman, "Random Observations," review of Fooled by Randomness.

Wired,http://www.wired.com (March, 2007), James Surowiecki, "Always Expect the Unexpected," author interview.

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