• Alex Vikner

The Bed of Procrustes by Taleb

Social media are severely antisocial, health foods are empirically unhealthy, knowledge workers are very ignorant, and social sciences aren't scientific at all.rn diseases of nerdiness, philistinism, and phoniness. These are my favorite aphorisms:


  • Your brain is the most intelligent when you don't instruct it on what to do.

  • In nature we never repeat the same motion; in captivity (office, gym, commute, sports), life is just repetitive-stress injury. No randomness.

  • If you know, in the morning, what your day looks like with any precision, you are a little bit dead—the more precision, the more dead you are.

  • Procrastination is the soul rebelling against entrapment.

  • Never say no twice if you mean it.

  • Most mistakes get worse when you try to correct them.

  • Friendship that ends was never one; there was at least one sucker in it.

  • It is a very powerful manipulation to let others win the small battles.

  • Life is about execution rather than purpose.

  • It is a very recent disease to mistake the unobserved for the non-existent; but some are plagued with the worse disease of mistaking the unobserved for the unobservable.

  • The ultimate freedom lies in not having to explain why you did something.

  • It is not possible to have fun when you try.

  • Automation makes otherwise pleasant activities turn into "work".

  • The book is the only medium left that hasn't been corrupted by the profane: everything else on your eyelids manipulates you with an ad.

  • It is easier to fast than diet.

  • What fools call "wasting time" is most often the best investment.

  • The fastest way to become rich is to socialize with the poor; the fastest way to become poor is to socialize with the rich.

  • You will be civilized on the day you can spend a long period doing nothing, learning nothing, and improving nothing, without feeling the slightest amount of guilt.

  • To succeed in life requires a total inability to do anything that makes you uncomfortable when you look at yourself in the mirror.

  • You are rich if and only if money you refuse tastes better than money you accept.

  • The difference between love and happiness is that those who talk about love tend to be in love, but those who talk about happiness tend to not be happy.

  • People focus on role models; it is more effective to find anti-models—people who don't want to resemble when you grow up.

  • There are two types of people: those who try to win and those who try to win arguments. They are never the same.

  • Modernity inflicts a sucker narrative on activities; now we "walk for exercise", not "walk" with no justification; for hidden reasons.

  • Social media are severely antisocial, health foods are empirically unhealthy, knowledge workers are very ignorant, and social sciences aren't scientific at all.

  • Executive programs allow us to watch people who have never worked lecturing those who have never pondered.

  • The three most harmful addictions are heroin, carbohydrates, and a monthly salary.

  • My only measure of success is how much time you have to kill.

  • A good book gets better on the second reading. A great book on the third. Any book not worth rereading isn't worth reading.

  • The difference between technology and slavery is that slaves are fully aware that they are not free.

  • You have a real life if and only if you do not compete with anyone in any of your pursuits.

  • Only in recent history has "working hard" signaled pride rather than shame for lack of talent, finesse, and mostly sprezzatura.

  • Modernity replaced process with result and the relational with the transactional.

  • For everything, use boredom in place of a clock, as a biological wristwatch, though under constraints of politeness.

  • A heuristic on whether you have control of your life: can you take naps?

  • If the professor is not capable of giving a class without preparation, don't attend. People should only teach what they have learned organically, through experience and curiosity... or get another job.

  • What I learned on my own I still remember.

  • The fool generalizes the particular; the nerd particularizes the general; some do both; and the wise does neither.

  • You want to be yourself, idiosyncratic; the collective (school, rules, jobs, technology) wants you generic to the point of castration.

  • It is very difficult to argue with salaried people that the simple can be important and the important can be simple.

  • The tragedy is that much of what you think is random is in your control and, what's worse, the opposite.

  • The fool views himself as more unique and others more generic; the wise views himself as more generic and others more unique.

  • Most info-Web-media-newspaper types have a hard time swallowing the idea that knowledge is reached (mostly) by removing junk from people's heads.

  • To understand "progress": all places we call ugly are both man-made and modern, never natural or historical.

  • Never take advice from a salesman, or any advice that benefits the advice giver.

  • The ethical man accords his profession to his beliefs, instead of according his beliefs to his profession.

  • To understand how something works, figure out how to break it.

  • General principle: the solutions (on balance) need to be simpler than the problems.

  • When conflicted between two choices, take neither.

  • Those who can't do shouldn't teach.

  • The problem with knowledge is that there are many more books on birds written by ornithologists than books on birds written by birds and books on ornithologists written by birds.

  • Change your anchor to what did not happen rather than what did happen.

  • Happiness: we don't know what it means, how to measure it, or how to reach it, but we know extremely well how to avoid unhappiness.

  • Conscious ignorance, if you can practice it, expands your world; it can make things infinite.

  • It takes a lot of intellect and confidence to accept that what makes sense doesn't really make sense.

  • Suckers think that you can cure greed with money, addiction with substances, expert problems with experts, banking with bankers, economics with economists, and debt crises with debt spending.

  • It is easier to macrobullshit than to microbullshit.

  • Never take investment advice from someone who has to work for a living.

  • It is a sign of weakness to avoid showing signs of weakness.

  • Risk takers never complain. They do.

  • We viciously accept narcissism in nation-states, while repressing it in individuals: complexity exposes the shaky moral foundations of the system.

  • Contra the prevailing belief, success is not being on top of a hierarchy, it is standing outside of all hierarchies.

  • It is much better to do things you cannot explain than explain things you cannot do.

  • Wisdom isn't about understanding things; it is knowing what they can do to you.