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The Bed of Procrustes

Just received my copy of Nassim Taleb’s latest book The Bed of Procrustes. Excellent hardcover edition, beautiful typeface, and that’s not mentioning the sharp writing Taleb is famous for*. The aphorisms in the prelude already set the stage –

An idea starts to be interesting when you get scared of taking it to its logical conclusion

– and it only gets better from there. The very idea of basing the book on the myth of Procrustes is brilliant. As Taleb points out in a footnote, the Procrustean myth isn’t just about the obvious allusion to an arbitrary frame into which everything must fit; it is also about changing the wrong variables when things don’t work. The same idea is captured in a poem by Bertold Brecht:

Would it not be easier
In that case for the government
To dissolve the people
And elect another?

*Although I think the earlier Fooled by Randomness is sharper, more focused, more merciless, and altogether better than the more famous The Black Swan.

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