Thursday, October 23, 2008

Top Theorists Explain Some Stuff

PBS Financial Correspondent Paul Salmon with Benoit Mandelbrot

Benoit Mandelbrot and Nassim Taleb On the Financial Crisis

The increased concentration among banks seems to have the effect of making financial crises less likely. But when they happen, they are more global in scale and hit us very hard. True, we now have fewer failures, but, when they occur, I shiver at the thought.

Nassim Taleb "The Black Swan" 2007

Benoit Mandelbrot is best known for being the "Father of Fractal Geometry." This was the computing calculation process that made things like layered graphics and computer modeling of complex systems possible. When I took fractals in college I almost went insane. Everything that I loved about mathematics was stripped away. At one point I told my professor, "This shit belongs in the goddamned philosophy department." Thing is, it works, rapidly and well.

Give this whole interview a read.

The metaphor of the Black Swan was used by Taleb in his book because for centuries European naturalists believed that all swans were white. Every swan they saw confirmed this as fact. Then Europeans landed in Austrailia and saw, for the first time, black swans. Taleb's foundation for thought is:

"One instant of observation can destroy centuries of assumption."