Scott calls out Taleb’s claim in Antifragile that “before the thirteenth century no more than five persons in the whole of Europe knew how to perform a division,” linking to a related Stack Exchange discussion from 8 years ago, which soundly debunks Taleb’s claim as “an outright misrepresentation of history.” Antifragile, published in 2012, is the third book of Taleb’s ‘incerto,’ series, following Fooled By Randomness, 2001, and The Black Swan, 2007. So Taleb is caught yet again with his pants down. Like his pal Gladwell, he cannot stop spreading lies and misinformation, whether about IQ, Covid, or epistemology.
Taleb has repeatedly posited a link between mask wearing and pandemic outcomes, yet many European countries which had among the most onerous of restrictions in early 2020, such as Spain, Turkey, Great Britain, Italy, Germany, etc., also had massive second or third waves and fared no better than countries with more relaxed restrictions. And also ANALYSIS | Do lockdowns help? No, they only appear to make things worse. The data would seem to suggest no correlation between restrictions and outcomes. What may have worked in China, Singapore, South Korea and Japan does not replicate to the rest of the world. Why this is, who knows, but we cannot just blame insufficient mask and social distancing compliance. If you tell Taleb about this on Twitter, he will block you, but not before calling you an imbecile or a denier.
As I correctly observed:
Look how much money and fame Malcolm Gladwell and Nassim Talab have amassed over the past two decades selling popular non-fiction books. Ideally, non-fiction books are supposed to at least adhere to some standard of impartiality and intellectual rigor, yet whether anyone posts on sites such as Reddit or Hacker News excerpts from their books and or articles, without fail there is overwhelming criticism in the comments about how the aforementioned authors commit egregious logical and reasoning errors and misconstrue the arguments of their ideological and intellectual opponents, that you typically do not see with other non-fiction authors. It would seem as if Taleb and Gladwell have made a fortune peddling sugar-coated lies and misinformation, wrapped up as easily-digestible stories suitable for public consumption but falling under even the slightest scrutiny by anyone with any critical thinking of subject-matter knowledge. In a true meritocracy, non-fiction authors who commit such malfeasance would not be elevated so highly in society in terms of status and wealth.
The tendency of Taleb’s claims to fall under even the slightest of scrutiny and be easily dismantled on forums by members whose IQs are high enough (which is not that high) to see through the lies and misconstructions, is a recurring theme. Reddit, Substack, and Hacker News is not Twitter, the latter whose users tend to have among the lowest IQs of social media (which is why they keep falling for those fake Elon Musk Bitcoin giveaways) and lap up Taleb’s nonsense without fail (those who raise doubts are blocked by Taleb, never to post again). We need to keep calling out Taleb for his nonsense on sites that are not Twitter, where he is unable to block us.