Black (Swan) Letter Law

Slate's blog on legal issues.
April 20 2008 4:07 PM

Black (Swan) Letter Law

Setting aside John Paulson , few have benefited from the subprime meltdown more than Nassim Nicholas Taleb , author of Fooled By Randomness and, more recently, The Black Swan .  For the past couple of years, Taleb has made waves by challenging Wall Street's approach to risk management: at risk of dramatically simplifying his analysis, I'd suggest that Taleb argues that people over-expose themselves to the risk of catastrophic events by evaluating information through biased lenses.  (We rely on hindsight narratives to order random information, for example, and pay more attention to history's visible winners than to history's invisible losers.)

For a month or so I've hoped to post a note tying Taleb's work to recent writings of Cass Sunstein and Richard Posner , as well as Francis Fukuyama's excellent edited volume and so forth.  The question of how best to order regulatory institutions to protect against truly unforeseeable catastrophes is perhaps the most exciting aspect of administrative law today, and if I were a professor it would constitute a substantial part of my research agenda.  Unfortunately, briefing deadlines and the like have kept me from writing even a blog post worthy of the subject.


In the meantime, to those of you looking for some Sunday evening reading material I wholeheartedly recommend two still recent profiles of Taleb (which triggered my interesting in posting a substantive blog item on Taleb):

1.  A recent profile of Taleb [pdf] in the Financial Times's weekly "Lunch With FT" series; and

2.  Bloomberg Magazine's current cover profile [pdf]. 

Also, Malcolm Gladwell profiled Taleb at length [pdf] in the New Yorker back in 2002.  And Taleb summarized his arguments in a recent lecture before the Long Now Foundation .



The Democrats’ War at Home

How can the president’s party defend itself from the president’s foreign policy blunders?

Secret Service Director Julia Pierson Resigns

Piper Kerman on Why She Dressed Like a Hitchcock Heroine for Her Prison Sentencing

Windows 8 Was So Bad That Microsoft Will Skip Straight to Windows 10

Homeland Is Good Again! For Now.


Cringing. Ducking. Mumbling.

How GOP candidates react whenever someone brings up reproductive rights or gay marriage.


How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully

On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.

The U.S. Has a New Problem in Syria: The Moderate Rebels Feel Like We’ve Betrayed Them

We Need to Talk: A Terrible Name for a Good Sports Show by and About Women

Trending News Channel
Oct. 1 2014 1:25 PM Japanese Cheerleader Robots Balance and Roll Around on Balls
  News & Politics
Oct. 1 2014 4:15 PM The Trials of White Boy Rick A Detroit crime legend, the FBI, and the ugliness of the war on drugs.
Oct. 1 2014 2:16 PM Wall Street Tackles Chat Services, Shies Away From Diversity Issues 
The Eye
Oct. 1 2014 1:04 PM An Architectural Crusade Against the Tyranny of Straight Lines
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:05 PM Today in GOP Outreach to Women: You Broads Like Wedding Dresses, Right?
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 3:02 PM The Best Show of the Summer Is Getting a Second Season
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 3:01 PM Netizen Report: Hong Kong Protests Trigger Surveillance and Social Media Censorship
  Health & Science
Oct. 1 2014 4:03 PM Does the Earth Really Have a “Hum”? Yes, but probably not the one you’re thinking.
Sports Nut
Sept. 30 2014 5:54 PM Goodbye, Tough Guy It’s time for Michigan to fire its toughness-obsessed coach, Brady Hoke.