The Bed of Procrustes: Philosophical and Practical Aphorisms

The Bed of Procrustes is a standalone book in Nassim Nicholas Taleb ’ s landmark Incerto series, an investigation of opacity, luck, uncertainty, probability, human error, risk, and decision-making in a world we don ’ t know. The other books in he series are Tempted by Randomness, The Black Swan, and Antifragile.

By the uthor of the modern classic Black Swan, his collection of aphorisms and meditations expresses his major ideas in ways you least expect.

The Bed of Procrustes takes its title from Greek mythology: the story of woma who made his visitors fit his bed to perfection by either stretching them or cutting their limbs. It represents Taleb ’ s view of modern civilization ’ s hubristic side effects—modifying humans to satisfy technology, blaming reality for not fitting economic models, inventing diseases to sell drugs, defining intelligence as what can be tested in a classroom, and convincing people that employment is not slavery.

Playful and irreverent, these aphorisms will surprise you by exposing self-delusions you have been living with but never recognized.

With a rare combination of pointed wit and potent wisdom, Taleb plows through human illusions, contrasting the classical values of courage, beaut, and erudition against the modern diseases of nerdiness, philistinism, and phoniness.
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Original Title of the Book
The Bed of Procrustes: Philosophical and Practical Aphorisms
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Published November 30th 2010 by Random House

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Here we have a contemporary spewing standalone quotes ripping though our own lives and times.In the great tension between rationalism ( how we would like things to be so they make sense to us) and empiricism ( how things are), we have been blaming the world for not fitting the beds of “ rational ” models, have helpe to change humans to fit technology, fudged our ethics to fit our needs for employment, asked economic life to fit the theories of economists, and asked human life to squeeze into some narrative.

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However, there are plenty of good ones, for xample: " There is no intermediate state between ice and water but there is one between life and death: employment " " You do n't become completely free just by avoiding to be a slave; you also need to avoid becoming a master. " " There are two example of people: those who try to win and those who try to win arguments.

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It 's sort of ironic that Taleb, coiner of the Narrative Fallacy, would put an overarching theme in collection of saying, but if it works, it works.

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A ook of aphorisms has an introduction, in which the myth of Procrustes is told, and writes with an essay which begins, " The general theme of my work is the limitation of human knowledge. " Both introduction and concluding essay strike me as special pleading.

Too often Taleb 's aphorisms fail because they lack the necessary iron, fire, mystery.

" At a panel in Moscow, I watched the economist Edmund Phelps, who got the 'Nobel' ( sic) for writings no one reads, theories no one uses, and lectures no one want. " Tha is n't even an aphorism.

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His 2007 book “ The Black Swan “ was described in a review by Sunday Times as one of the twelve most influential books since World War II.

His earlier books such as “ Fooled by Randomness “ and “ The Black Swan ” made it clear to the world that Taleb is a first class thinker who can now, to paraphrase one his sayings, a priori what most can only learn a posteriori.

Mr. Taleb ’ s new book addresses the latter-day ways in which “ we humans, facing limits of knowledge, and things we do not observe, the unseen and the unknown, resolve the tension by squeezing life and the world into crisp commoditized ideas, reductive categories, specific vocabularies, and prepackaged narratives, which, on the occasion, has explosive consequences. ” The book offers readers a robust insight into Taleb ’ s world view and process which is ultimately quite useful for those who seek to find a deeper understanding of the complex world we live in.

It may not be surprising that this deeper understanding that Taleb possesses stems from a pursuit that is at odds with the modern, scientific, technological approach to knowledge, but is rooted in one ’ s willingnes to remove oneself from constraints, biases, artificial effort, and ideological and societal norms.Taleb ’ s aphorisms manage to tell us how to generate ideas without thinking, achieve progress without working, and reveal mysteries without looking.

In real life, you don ’ t know who really won or lost ( except too late), but you can tell who is heroic and who is not. ” “ Academia is to knowledge what prostitution is to love; close enough on the surface but, to the nonsucker, not exactly the same thing. ” “ You remember e-mails you sent that were not answered better than e-mails you did not answer. ” “ People reserve standard compliments for those who do not threaten their pride; the others they often praise by calling “ arrogant. ” “ If you lie to me, keep lying; don ’ t hurt me by suddenly telling the truth ” “ True humility is when you can surprise yourself more than others; the rest is either shyness or good marketing. ” “ Meditation is a way to be narcissistic without hurting anyone. ” “ The calamity of the information age is that the toxicity of data increases much faster than its benefits. ” “ The stock market, in brief: participants are calmly waiting in line to be slaughtered while thinking it is for a Broadway show. " “ The weak shows his strength and hides his weaknesses; the magnificent exhibits his weaknesses like ornaments ” “ Half the people lie with their lips; the other half with their tears. ” “ If you think, in the night, what your day looks like with any precision, you re a little bit dead—the more precision, the more dead you are. ” Mr. Taleb is so calculatedly abrasive in this smart, attention-grabbing little book that he achieves his main objective.

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