Foresight

Nice interview of Nassim Nicholas Taleb by Lloyd Grove (via Bruce Schneier) for Portfolio.com.

Seems that the writing on the wall was quite early to be seen:

N.N.T.: Yeah, I only do things where there’s a natural stimulation. I had no natural stimulation to sit in a meeting, so I would not sit in a meeting, and that has worked for me. I want to free up the time to think—that requires the details in my reading and my writing and thinking. Enjoyable activities. When I’m writing, if I get bored, I’ll stop immediately, mid-sentence, that’s it, I don’t write anything that bores me…You have a copy of The Black Swan? Let me show you, I think I have it here, page 225, in the footnote. Read it.

L.G: [Reads] “Likewise, the government-sponsored institution Fannie Mae, when I look at their risks, seems to be sitting on a barrel of dynamite, vulnerable to the slightest hiccup. But not to worry, their large staff of scientists deem these events ‘unlikely.'”

N.N.T: That’s the central point. The rest is noise.

L.G.: You wrote that footnote in 2005?

N.N.T: Yes, but actually I saw their positions in 2003, when a very smart journalist, Alex Berenson of the New York Times, came to me and said, Can I show you the risk of Fannie Mae? When I saw it, I almost choked. [In Berenson’s August 2003 article, Taleb was quoted as saying Fannie Mae and other major holders of mortgages and mortgage-backed securities chronically underestimate the odds of a big move in interest rates that could decimate the value of their portfolios, over-relying on computer models that don’t account for rare but devastating events, i.e. black swans. “The fact that they have not blown up in the past doesn’t mean that they’re not going to blow up in the future. The math is bogus,” he told the Times.]

The rest of the interview is also worthwile reading.

I have the book for a while on my Amazon wishlist, but now I´m gonna order it. Finally.