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October 09, 2008



I have read Taleb's books and I like them, but this advice is contradictory, isn't it?

He says people are irrational and fear flying more than driving because of the media coverage. Then he says to get your news in a social situation from people. But wouldn't that mean you get news from people that irrationally fear flying more than driving?

Chris Anderson

I think his point is that if you hear news from someone you know, it must really matter to them. So in this case you'd be more likely to hear about the news of a car crash than an airplane crash, while on the TV it would be the reverse.


Yes because putting fingers in your ears and going "LA LA LA LA I CANT HEAR YOU" is clearly the answer. Learning how to critically think and process information is just too much work.


I should have been more constructive to point out that basically I completely disagree with the premise that "Our brains cannot deal with the overload of information." They CAN, but some people choose not to because it's not worth it. That's a completely different argument than what's being made here (I haven't/can't read the article however)

Chris Anderson

@Nick. The question is not what we can do, it's what we *do* do. And in practice, we tend to irrationally overweight bad news. That's Nassim's point.

Stephen Tiano

The only problem with getting one's news in a social setting, from what people talk about, is that there's no telling what ax people speaking in such settings have to grind. There's no way to even know whether they know what the hell they're talking about. So the conundrum continues.


Taleb was apparently on Newsnight last week (via Bryan Appleyard's blog) getting angry - he thinks that the first step is for the economists to scrap their "worthless" predictive models, etc.


Taleb was on Newsnight last Friday. Each time the presenter asked him a question or asked him to predict something, he replied with, "I have no idea..." and then ranted for a while with stuff from The Black Swan. He seemed nervous and struggled to get his point across - it was almost embarrassing.


I disagree that our brains can't handle the overload of information, and I disagree that people should get their information exclusively from social settings. I get what he's trying to say, though - that the more you fixate on any one thing, especially if it's a bad news story, the more depressed and hopeless you feel about it. And with any contentious issue, there are extreme opinions that will polarize on either side which don't allow a lot of room for rational thinking.

But the solution isn't to close your ears and pretend it doesn't exist; the solution is to use our brains and pick apart the arguments critically, like Nick insinuated... the problem is most people don't know how to do that and instead react to things emotionally, especially when it's as emotional an issue as losing your life savings or home or retirement money...

Alberto Cottica

Well, Taleb has ALWAYS said that "news is toxic", or rather than a little bit of news is pretty much all you need. He's got nice data to back that up, too, if you go through his book.

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I think it depends on the person. Bad news motivate some while others get crippled. I think for those who freeze when encountered with difficulty your advice is sound

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The Long Tail by Chris Anderson

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