The “Intellectual Yet Idiot” Class – Knowing what’s best for you

Written By: - Date published: 10:38 am, September 18th, 2016 - 241 comments
Categories: activism, blogs, class war, colonialism, democratic participation, discrimination, Politics, thinktank - Tags:

Nassim Taleb could very well be the foremost risk statistician/probability philosopher of our age.

The best selling author of the Black Swan, Nassim now explains a factor which is degrading the political performance of the bureaucratic Left (and the Right) and opening doors for new political movements – the rising phenomenon of the “Intellectual Yet Idiot” class.

What we have been seeing worldwide, from India to the UK to the US, is the rebellion against the inner circle of no-skin-in-the-game policymaking “clerks” and journalists-insiders, that class of paternalistic semi-intellectual experts with some Ivy league, Oxford-Cambridge, or similar label-driven education who are telling the rest of us 1) what to do, 2) what to eat, 3) how to speak, 4) how to think… and 5) who to vote for.

But the problem is the one-eyed following the blind: these self-described members of the “intelligenzia” can’t find a coconut in Coconut Island, meaning they aren’t intelligent enough to define intelligence hence fall into circularities — but their main skill is capacity to pass exams written by people like them.

Hence we get a self replicating, self reinforcing, self congratulatory class of political bureaucrats, activists,wannabes and hangers-on’s who have become increasingly disconnected from ordinary people in the rest of society.

No wonder people far away from the wealthy ruling class-centric “Thorndon Bubbles”/”Beltways” of the world often continue to take their own advice contrary to the noise of the self-proclaimed experts, especially given the poor track record of these “intellectual yet idiots”:

With psychology papers replicating less than 40%, dietary advice reversing after 30 years of fatphobia, macroeconomic analysis working worse than astrology, the appointment of Bernanke who was less than clueless of the risks, and pharmaceutical trials replicating at best only 1/3 of the time, people are perfectly entitled to rely on their own ancestral instinct and listen to their grandmothers (or Montaigne and such filtered classical knowledge) with a better track record than these policymaking goons.

That’s a big thumbs up for the value of traditional, cultural and familial knowledge, in my books. It is a call to attention as to how the expert technocratic classes have failed to deliver on their promises to the wider society over, and over, and over again.

Taleb continues and has more to say about the social characteristics of the “IYI” class (from a US perspective of course):

More socially, the IYI subscribes to The New Yorker. He never curses on twitter. He speaks of “equality of races” and “economic equality” but never went out drinking with a minority cab driver. Those in the U.K. have been taken for a ride by Tony Blair. The modern IYI has attended more than one TEDx talks in person or watched more than two TED talks on Youtube. Not only will he vote for Hillary Monsanto-Malmaison because she seems electable and some other such circular reasoning, but holds that anyone who doesn’t do so is mentally ill.

And so comes the discussion relevant to the current Clinton/Trump race for the Oval Office:

The IYI pathologizes others for doing things he doesn’t understand without ever realizing it is his understanding that may be limited. He thinks people should act according to their best interests and he knows their interests, particularly if they are “red necks” or English non-crisp-vowel class who voted for Brexit. When Plebeians do something that makes sense to them, but not to him, the IYI uses the term “uneducated”. What we generally call participation in the political process, he calls by two distinct designations: “democracy” when it fits the IYI, and “populism” when the plebeians dare voting in a way that contradicts his preferences.

Once you look out for this languaging and this attitude you will find it everywhere on both the Left wing and the Right wing of politics. The most recent example being Hillary Clinton denigrating tens of millions of Americans as “irredeemable” and “deplorable” – while the activist liberal left cheered on with moral self-righteousness.

Yes the specific terminology and the politics between how the Left wing IYI and the Right wing IYI proceeds along this same avenue differs – but the pervasive sense of self entitled, assumed superiority is common to both sides and unmistakable.

241 comments on “The “Intellectual Yet Idiot” Class – Knowing what’s best for you”

  1. Stunned mullet 1

    Oh the irony.

    • Colonial Viper 1.1

      Such a supposedly clever and snide remark. Ironic indeed.

      BTW I am guessing you don’t deadlift?

    • Tim 1.2

      This is just anti-intellectualism by another name.. Something which CV repeatedly displays on this forum

      • Colonial Viper 1.2.1

        Have you ever heard/read the work of Nassim Taleb? Are you really accusing him of being anti-intellectual?

        Nah, mate, he’s a true intellectual, while you I have questions about. So let’s see you justify your points.

        See if you can get beyond calling me “anti-intellectual”, maybe you’d like to call me “uneducated” while you are at it?

        • Tim 1.2.1.1

          No, and yes. And you do sound pretty uneducated most of the time.

          • Colonial Viper 1.2.1.1.1

            I’ll wear that as a badge of honour, thanks. And by the way, I think Trump is going to trounce Hillary come November, so you better add redneck racist deplorable to the list.

            By the way I am still waiting for you justify your clever self assured and somewhat snide anti-intellectualism comment.

            Come on, dazzle us, educated one.

            • Tim 1.2.1.1.1.1

              If you don’t think Trump is pandering to racists then you aren’t paying much attention, you’re probably busy listening to Alex Jones and his conspiracy theories

              • Colonial Viper

                Clinton and Trump appeal to different kinds of bigots.

                Re: conspiracy theories. Anyone who wholly believes the MSM narrative on an issue is ever only looking at half (or less) the actual story.

      • weka 1.2.2

        “Something which CV repeatedly displays on this forum”

        I think CV talks in slogans a lot as a commenter, but he’s now put up a decent political argument. Why not address those points instead of resorting to slogans and ad homs yourself?

        • Colonial Viper 1.2.2.1

          thanks weka, and yes my autopilot sloganeering is too much some days…

          • Philj 1.2.2.1.1

            Good post CV. Thank you. I wonder if what we are witnessing, as explained by Mr Talib is not so much IYI as hired guns who are paid to read the autocue neo lib ideology?

            • Colonial Viper 1.2.2.1.1.1

              Cheers, Philj. Yes some of these same technocrats/intellectual yet idiots are also the very same careerists who have built their income and futures on reading/writing the autocues.

      • keepcalmcarryon 1.2.3

        I’d say its anti elitism, there is a difference.

      • This isn’t anti-intellectualism. Rather, it’s talking about how trying to be an intellectual in a bubble is really failing to be an intellectual.

  2. corokia 2

    So, is it okay for the general population to be lied to by Trump, UKIP, Fox news etc because they are being lied to by people who pretend to be like them?

    This is just more of the “we don’t need experts” meme. Good luck with that one when you need a by-pass.

    • Colonial Viper 2.1

      Hi corokia,

      I’m afraid you’ve got the wrong end of the stick. This is a discussion on the technocratic/bureaucratic class who think they know better than anyone else.

      Members of this technocratic/bureaucratic class typically cannot do anything remotely as useful as conduct heart bypass surgery, or build the foundations for a motorway bridge bypass.

      Nassem Taleb would say that an expert like the heart surgeon is an expert who truly has “skin in the game” – there are face to face consequences for that expert if what he does or recommends turns out to be wrong.

      • corokia 2.1.1

        OK, I see where you are coming from here, but it concerns me that it slides into things like ignoring science on climate change. Anti-intellectual backlash can end up with the baby being thrown out with the bathwater.

        re the diet ‘experts”. My mum is cross that she stopped eating eggs for years because we used to be told they were bad for you.

        • Colonial Viper 2.1.1.1

          I was about 10 when they made us kids stop eating eggs because all the doctors and scientists said so.

          And to start eating lots of margarine instead of butter, because butter was bad for your heart health and margarine good…

          • Psycho Milt 2.1.1.1.1

            Don’t call them scientists. They’d like you to call them that, but they’re actually social scientists. There was no science involved in public-health idiots telling people not to eat eggs or butter, just social studies.

            • Colonial Viper 2.1.1.1.1.1

              Medical doctors gave their patients the same advice – at the time.

              • Doctors mostly aren’t scientists either, especially not the ones in general practice.

                • weka

                  In what ways are biology, chemistry, and zoology not science? If people who study those things aren’t scientists, what meaning does the word ‘scientist’ have? If you are suggesting that scientists aren’t people that study science and work in scientific fields, what is a scientist?

                  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancel_Keys

                  Bonus question, how would we tell which doctors are scientists and which aren’t?

                  • Biology, chemistry and zoology are sciences. If you’re asking how I can say that medical doctors aren’t scientists, it’s because scientists carry out scientific research. The general practitioner giving you bullshit advice on what to eat will have studied science subjects at university, but that’s not the same thing as being a scientist.

                    You mention Ancel Keys. He did observational studies and jumped to conclusions about the results. He might want to call that science, but it’s actually social science.

                    • weka

                      But he was a scientist by training and work experience, over a long period of time. He just did bad science at least some of that time. By the time he was doing what you call social science it’s not like he could void his brain of his scientific training and experience. Nor his credentials.

                      Here’s what my dictionary says a scientist is,

                      a person who is studying or has expert knowledge of one or more of the natural or physical sciences

                      That’s doctors. And I think that’s a definition that most people would accept. Trying to limit the term science to people who do only or predominantly research is problematic because lots of people do reasearch, or have done research and do other things as well. Including GPs. I get that you want to keep science pure, but the problem with that is it makes out that science is pure and then we miss the rather massive mistakes being made within those fields.

                    • Keys moved into the social sciences and used his previous work as a scientist to pretend that his doing observational studies and making correlation=causation errors about them was “science.” He paved the way for a lot of the bullshit dietary advice that gets called “science-based” these days. In that sense, CV has it right – our grandparents and other ancestors knew what to eat via tradition, now we listen to “expert” social science bullshit about what to eat and have an obesity epidemic. By calling these people scientists we lend a credibility to their work that it doesn’t deserve.

                    • I’m vaguely amused by the way you use social science as a derogatory label. It is important, but because it can be so subjective, it needs to be done carefully in a way that doesn’t introduce bias.

                      Not all social science is bad science.

                    • It’s not a derogatory label – we can’t have evidence-based policy without evidence-gathering, and for that we need social scientists. However, social science evidence is of a much lower standard than scientific evidence, which means social scientists who want to call what they’re doing science need to be slapped down – they’re claiming an authoritative standard for their research that it just doesn’t meet.

                • Stuart Munro

                  There is a thing about real science, that it can appear fickle. If recent studies show eggs are bad, the scientist is supposed to give some credit to them, and when subsequent studies reverse the finding, they are expected to follow these too. Not arguing with your social science conclusion btw – but real science is an uncertain, self-critical business.

                • AmaKiwi

                  @ Psycho Milt

                  “Doctors mostly aren’t scientists either, especially not the ones in general practice.”

                  Complete rubbish. Doctors are extremely conscious scientists who are constantly updating their knowledge and applying the latest information.

                  I have rarely heard such half-assed b.s. on The Standard.

                  Psycho Milt, you have just won yourself a place in my category of “Standard bloggers so stupid I won’t waste my time reading anything they say.”

                  • Meh. By that standard, I’m a scientist. If you interpret the word “scientist” broadly enough, we all are. I prefer to keep “scientist” for people who actually work in the sciences.

              • Garibaldi

                Medical Doctors do next to no training on diet. They are basically slaves to their paymasters, the totally corrupt drug companies. Funny how they take the Hippocratic oath and yet pay no heed to Hippocrates (the father of medicine) whose ,probably, best quote is “Let medicine be your food and food be your medicine”.We run around spending millions on drug research to pretend we’re doing something positive, then eat processed foods, chemically laden foods, sugary foods, charcoaled foods etc .No wonder our systems break out with diabetes and cancer, let alone all the allergies and drug side-effects. Next time you are in the supermarket look around you at the crap we expect our bodies to deal with…probably 85-90% of supermarket food is killing us. Where’s the medical profession on this? That’s right they’ll pop a few more pills into you. Get the picture? Our modern western diet is killing us.

                • Tim

                  Not to rain on your parade but many doctors in NZ are actually paid by the government and hence the taxpayer, not big pharma..

                  • Garibaldi

                    True, but the politicians aren’t known for their dietary expertise!

                    • Colonial Viper

                      I’m sure you know how the “Food Pyramid” issued by the US Gov decades ago and which became the basis of dietary recommendations all over the world was constructed…

                • AmaKiwi

                  @ Garibaldi

                  “Medical Doctors do next to no training on diet.”

                  More ignorant rubbish from another doctor hater.

                  Doctors are well-trained about died and study the latest food research. They are acutely aware that many of the medical problems they see are caused by or significantly aggravated by their patient’s bad diet. They tell patients but they can’t force their patients to make intelligent food choices.

                  • Their food advice is rubbish, which is not their fault but the fault of the self-proclaimed epidemiology and nutrition “scientists” publishing the results of their social science research on diet and health. Witness the decades of telling people not to eat eggs, as though dietary cholesterol translated into serum cholesterol (and as though cholesterol levels count for shit), or the decades telling people saturated fats will give them a heart attack, or the decades telling diabetics like me to eat a high-carb diet guaranteed to ruin our health. None of that was because doctors are stupid, or incompetent, or malicious, it’s because we let bullshit social science researchers convince us their bullshit constitutes “science.”

                  • b waghorn

                    I recently went through 4 months of constant pain , and even though i told the 4 different drs i had (it’s a rear event to get the same doc twice in my town) that i have tricky plumbing , not one looked at my diet for the cause , they handed me pills and in one memorable instance questioned my mental stability.
                    I did a bit of my own science by dropping things out till i found the food that was causing it.
                    So that kind of proves that at least some do not have inquiring scientific minds.

                    • Colonial Viper

                      Sounds like subjective anecodotal placebo effect mumbo jumbo to me

                      /sarc

                      (pleased to hear you are feeling better b waghorn, nice self investigation work)

                  • Big bad Bob

                    An NZ (actually Australian) doctor, Bill Stehbens, was challenging the cholesterol myth decades ago. Now he was a scientist.

                • Big bad Bob

                  No doctor in NZ takes the Hippocratic oath.

        • left_forward 2.1.1.2

          And from whom did your mum hear that eating eggs wasn’t bad for her after all? The egg industry?
          The newspaper? Women’s Weekly? Mike Hoskings?
          Don’t be fooled – they are still not good for her health (if that matters):
          http://nutritionfacts.org/video/who-says-eggs-arent-healthy-or-safe/

          • Psycho Milt 2.1.1.2.1

            Farkinell. I see the word “facts” in nutritionfacts.org should be taken as poetic licence.

            • left_forward 2.1.1.2.1.1

              This is all based on evidence and research PM – so which bit do you think isn’t fact? Or is this the point? – don’t let the facts and science get in the way of your prejudice and conditioning, eh?

              • Holocaust denial and 9/11 conspiracy theories are also based on evidence and research, but that doesn’t make them true. The piece you linked to seems to be making the case that eggs are neither healthy nor safe because they contain cholesterol and saturated fat. These were both popular myths a couple of decades ago, but have been pretty conclusively demonstrated to be myths (the idea that dietary cholesterol would affect serum cholesterol was laughable on the face of it, let alone needing evidence to discredit it). The creator of the video commits the logical fallacy of appeal to authority, ie the US federal bureaucracy still lists dietary cholesterol and saturated fats as unhealthy and unsafe, therefore eggs can’t be marketed as healthy in the US, therefore eggs are by definition unhealthy. I stopped watching after a few minutes because the stupid was burning me.

                • left_forward

                  So according to your rationale, if something is based on evidence and research (e.g. observation), it doesn’t make it true. Yet you go on to argue that something was pretty conclusively demonstrated – so how was that done if not through evidence and research?

                  • As per my examples above, not all evidence and research is created equal. If you’re making a bold claim (eg, “9/11 was a massive US government conspiracy!” or “Eating cholesterol or saturated fats will give you a heart attack!”), you need some pretty strong evidence to back up that claim. The people expressing skepticism about your bold claims need only a lack of evidence on your part, they don’t need particularly strong evidence of their own.

                    In this particular instance (dietary cholesterol and saturated fats), decades of declaring any study that could in some way be interpreted to support the claim to be “compelling evidence” while declaring the various studies that refuted the claim as “fatally flawed” don’t constitute “pretty strong evidence to back up that claim.” As the people who built their careers on it have started retiring and dying, the acceptance that the claims were untrue is increasing. Future generations will use the diet/heart theory as a classroom example of confirmation bias in action.

                • Colonial Viper

                  Holocaust denial and 9/11 conspiracy theories are also based on evidence and research

                  WTC 7 did NOT collapse due to the fires which happened on the day. That’s a provable fact. The official NIST analysis of the collapse of WTC 7 is not only flawed; it is so flawed it can be considered entirely false.

                  And that’s also a provable fact.

                  It’s your choice to dismiss that.

                  • left_forward

                    Very good example CV – It is a clearly observational fact that the third tallest building to fall that day fell as the result of a controlled demolition. Scientists and Engineers have questioned the official conspiracy story, because it doesn’t line up with anything that we know about physics.
                    It seems that PM has a short attention span for anything that fits outside the world view constructed for him by the media. He reminds me about Douglas Adams’ Probability Drive example, where a large spaceship lands in the middle of a football stadium during a game, but nobody sees it because it fits outside of what they consider to be probable.
                    In this way giant skyscrapers can be taken down in front of the eyes of the world but people see something different – i.e. what they are told to see.
                    The problem with the argument in your article CV is that it risks a PM type selectivity of science and fact, in order to suit PM’s bias and beliefs.

                    • Colonial Viper

                      It is a clearly observational fact that the third tallest building to fall that day fell as the result of a controlled demolition.

                      Well, the video recorded appearance of the WTC 7 collapse ‘fits’ with that generally observed in the controlled demolitions of high rise buildings. But nothing conclusive has been proven around that, yet.

                      What has been proven is that the official NIST story of how WTC 7 fell is demonstrably false, and the methods that they used to come to their conclusion that fires caused the buildings collapse, badly and incompletely thought out.

                    • RedLogix

                      He reminds me about Douglas Adams’ Probability Drive example, where a large spaceship lands in the middle of a football stadium during a game, but nobody sees it because it fits outside of what they consider to be probable.

                      This is exactly how the human mind works. Look about the room you are in right now. Your mind is perceiving a thousand details, yet in fact your eye is seeing only a handful at any given moment.

                      What your mind is doing is creating a model (and imaginary picture if you like) based on it’s prior experience. This model is at least 90% of your perception, with barely 10% being updated by your eyes.

                      In automation engineering we call this Model Predictive Control and it’s a rather cool technique that drives the control actions to both the real plant and a software model of the plant. Both the plant and the model will respond to the action, and then we measure the response output of both (the real plant output is measured with instruments) and compare the two.

                      If your model is accurate then difference between the plant and the model should be relatively small, and this small error is then used to correct the next control action to the plant to drive it closer to the desired state.

                      Which it seems is pretty analogous to how the human brain actually works. What we are conscious of is actually just a model built mostly on what our experience tells us is most probable. The process of updating this model with external inputs from our senses is not perfect either … but is amazing how well it all works most of the time.

                      But equally as you say, it’s exquisitely vulnerable to rejecting outlier data, events or data that are not just unexpected, but rejected because the brain has no prior experience of such a thing.

                      Oh and Douglas Adams was a genius. 🙂

                    • left_forward

                      Yes I agree about Douglas Adams RedLogix – I always find it useful to quote Adams when having these deep existential debates about truth and experience ! 🙂
                      Thanks for your excellent contribution to this little thread.

                  • WTC 7 did NOT collapse due to the fires which happened on the day. That’s a provable fact.

                    I know this is hard for you to understand, but declaring something a “provable fact” doesn’t make it a provable fact. Proving it’s a fact makes it a provable fact.

                    Surprisingly enough, no-one’s going to volunteer a similarly-structured fully-equipped 40+-story office building to have bits of another building smashed into it and then let it burn uncontrolled for hours to find out if it will collapse, so the sample population for this is likely to remain n=1. Engineers who’ve looked at this say an uncontrolled fire burning for hours on multiple floors weakened the horizontal beams enough for floors to pancake. You say that’s physically impossible. Well, fine, but I’ll take the engineers’ assessments of what’s possible over a chiropractor’s, thanks.

                    • left_forward

                      Great to hear! So check out the assessments of 2,643 engineers here:
                      http://www.ae911truth.org/

                    • Colonial Viper

                      Engineers who’ve looked at this say an uncontrolled fire burning for hours on multiple floors weakened the horizontal beams enough for floors to pancake. You say that’s physically impossible. Well, fine, but I’ll take the engineers’ assessments of what’s possible over a chiropractor’s, thanks.

                      Uh, the “pancake theory” was abandoned by NIST several years ago after widespread criticism of their position.

                      Even their own website (under point 8) declares that their findings do not support the “pancake” theory of the Twin Towers.

                      https://www.nist.gov/engineering-laboratory/faqs-nist-wtc-towers-investigation

                      (AFAIK the “pancake theory” was never applied to WTC 7 by NIST – please get your facts right. You have some imaginary idea of what happened which doesn’t even relate to NIST’s final conclusions!!! I’ll clue you in – NIST’s conclusions around WTC 7 relate to lateral failure at “Column 79”).

                      And further, I’m right, and you’re wrong about WTC7.

                      but I’ll take the engineers’ assessments of what’s possible over a chiropractor’s, thanks.

                      Your mistake. It seems I understand a lot more about NIST”s conclusions around WTC 7 than you do.

                      (At the very least I got the right building; how embarrassing for you.)

                    • Great to hear! So check out the assessments of 2,643 engineers here:

                      What next? A list of climate-change-denying scientists?

                      CV: maybe you understand “pancaking” to mean something other than “cascading floor failures,” but I don’t.

                    • left_forward

                      “I’ll take the engineers’ assessments of what’s possible over a chiropractor’s, thanks”.

                      Hold on PM – you say that you will take the assessments of engineers, but then you don’t “take” these engineers (http://www.ae911truth.org/) who have investigated the collapse of the world trade centre buildings, because you think that they are like “climate-denying scientists”.

                      So how do you choose between some engineers and not others? How do you discriminate between your “laughable ones” and the ones ones you do choose to “take”?

                      A coin toss perhaps?

                      No – its seems like its your subjectively conditioned bias that chooses for you!

                    • So how do you choose between some engineers and not others? How do you discriminate between the “laughable ones” and the ones ones you take?

                      Well, in this instance, we have some engineers whose theory presupposes a massive and perfectly-maintained conspiracy involving a large number of separate US government agencies over a couple of decades, and some engineers whose theory doesn’t. Choosing between them doesn’t need a coin toss.

                      Try using the heuristic “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” Works for religion as well as science.

                    • left_forward

                      What is extraordinary PM is that the first three steeled framed buildings in history collapsed on a single day as the result of fire (carbon fires are not hot enough to melt or weaken steel), and not only that, collapsed at free fall speed into their own footprints – directly through the path of greatest resistance. These professional engineers and architects are saying that this is the extraordinary and unscientific explanation – it challenges everything they know about how buildings stand up and how they fail.

                      You have apparently refused to examine their concerns because you have raced ahead to one of the possible explanations – the inside-job conjecture – which if true would cause you to confront your previous assumptions about the US and the so called ‘war on terror’. Your refusal to examine this is selective and self-protecting, but it is certainly not related to the truth. This is the point that I am making.

                      These engineers do not make a conjecture about what this may mean – they would agree with you – they have restricted their examination to science and not the conjecture – they are simply saying that the official story does not make any sense and they want to find the truth.

                      …extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.
                      Perhaps you might listen to your own advice here and have a look at what they are saying.

                    • Andre

                      left_forward, how to choose who is a credible expert and who is laughable: just a couple of examples.

                      When I have a particularly gnarly problem involving the stability of a compressively loaded structure, the first reference I reach for is “Stability of Structures” by Zdenek Bazant and Luigi Cedolin. So when I look at video and drawings of the building collapses, and form my own opinions (partly informed by my investigations of other collapses), then find Bazant has published a much more detailed analysis backed by actual calculations that mostly confirms my initial opinion, and shows me new information I hadn’t spotted or considered, then I consider that a credible opinion.

                      When someone who has established their expertise in particle physics (with no evidence of any background in structural engineering) publishes assertions that I can personally refute about a structural engineering collapse, I don’t consider that a credible source. When I find that said particle physicist has also aligned himself with a pair of scientists that are either fantasists or outright frauds (take your pick) claiming cold fusion, then my opinion of that individual’s credibility drops further. Then when said physicist also publishes what can only be described as religious kookery…

                      This pattern gets repeated over and over again. The conspiracy theorists I’ve checked out are not credible experts when it comes to investigating a structural collapse. Meanwhile, the experts that have done the work showing the collapses were due to the combination of impact damage followed by uncontrolled fire (plus design oddities in WTC7 that could be considered a serious flaw) really are experts with relevant backgrounds in structural engineering and failure analysis.

                    • What is extraordinary PM is that the first three steeled framed buildings in history collapsed on a single day as the result of fire (carbon fires are not hot enough to melt or weaken steel), and not only that, collapsed at free fall speed into their own footprints – directly through the path of greatest resistance.

                      This is what Richard Dawkins calls the “argument of personal incredulity.” You can’t believe buildings would collapse like this for these reasons, so when structural engineers explain that they can, and did, you regard it as an extraordinary claim – much like Ray Comfort regards it as extraordinary to claim that humans evolved from earlier apes. The fact is that it’s not extraordinary, you just personally find it difficult to believe because it’s not how you’re accustomed to things working (or rather, failing, in this case).

                      You have apparently refused to examine their concerns because you have raced ahead to one of the possible explanations…

                      “One of” the possible explanations for their concerns? Which possible explanations for their concerns don’t require a massive US government conspiracy? I’d be interested to hear how that works.

                    • left_forward

                      @ Andre and PM:
                      So you would consider for example, Dr. Robert Korol, professor emeritus of civil engineering at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario as a fraudster or not a ‘real’ structural engineer worthy of an opinion on this matter. So despite his peer reviewed published papers on the world trade centre collapses, he would still be one of the flat-earthers, climate-change deniers, and laughable ones.
                      http://www.ae911truth.org/news/275-news-media-events-canadian-civil-engineering-researchers-disprove-official-explanation-of-wtc-7-s-destruction.html
                      He is one of the many credible critics of the official explanation.
                      Your bias is still showing.

                    • left_forward

                      @PM and Andre:
                      Here is Dr Korol’s paper, if you are interested in the science.
                      http://www.challengejournal.com/index.php/cjsmec/article/view/36/19

                    • Colonial Viper

                      This is what Richard Dawkins calls the “argument of personal incredulity.”

                      And this guy, whoever he is, is a structural engineer of some sort is he?

                    • Colonial Viper

                      Which possible explanations for their concerns don’t require a massive US government conspiracy? I’d be interested to hear how that works.

                      Wait. So now you’re expecting *us* to take *YOUR* personal incredulity seriously?

                      What’s a “massive US government conspiracy got to do with it? I’m just interested in whether or not WTC7 could have fallen down according to the official explanation (clue: it can’t have).

                    • I know nothing of Dr Korol and little of the science involved. However, I take this into account:

                      1. A building suffers impact damage, burns uncontrolled for several hours and then collapses.

                      2. Structural engineers say it collapsed because heat from the fire expanded and weakened a critical steel beam.

                      3. Different structural engineers say it would be impossible for the damage inflicted in point 1 to cause the building to collapse.

                      4. And yet, the building did collapse. In my experience, when theory conflicts with actual events, it’s unlikely to be the actual events that have it wrong.

                      5. The only people backing the “impossible” argument in point 3 are people positing a massive and perfectly-maintained government conspiracy, which raises an obvious “Occam’s razor” problem.

                      6. Ergo, the structural engineers in point 2 are more likely to be correct.

                    • Colonial Viper

                      CV: maybe you understand “pancaking” to mean something other than “cascading floor failures,” but I don’t.

                      Huh? The pancaking theory was a specific theory applied to the Twin Towers.

                      NIST has never applied it to WTC7 AFAIK.

                      So now you’ve just made up your own term and applied it ad hoc to WTC7?

                      Are you sure that’s scientific?

                      BTW please point me to your source material which says that “pancaking” = “cascading floor failures.”

                      PS “cascading floor failures” describes WHAT happened, it doesn’t describe HOW it happened.

                    • Andre

                      left_forward, thanks for that paper from Korol.

                      The thing about models is that it’s really easy to poke shit at them. I’ve poked plenty of shit at other people’s models, and had plenty poked at my own.

                      I can see plenty of assumptions in Korol’s paper that may or may not be valid, and I’ve experienced plenty of strange stuff happen when temperatures go well outside of “normal”. So I don’t see Korol’s paper as disproving NIST’s conclusion, until it’s backed up by other experts that don’t have a need to prove a theory they’ve been pushing for many years.

                      It also took a lot of searching to get past the 9/11 links to find Korol’s actual civil engineering expertise, and while I found a little bit of stuff relevant to the microscale strength of joints and members, I didn’t find anything relevant to the macro-scale stability of structures. So I’m not yet convinced Korol’s expertise is completely relevant.

                    • What’s a “massive US government conspiracy got to do with it? I’m just interested in whether or not WTC7 could have fallen down according to the official explanation…

                      Sure you are. The fact that the only sites sharing that interest are conspiracy-theory sites, and the fact that there is no alternative explanation that doesn’t require such a conspiracy have no relation to your purely scientific interest in the specific details of this incident.

                      BTW please point me to your source material which says that “pancaking” = “cascading floor failures.”

                      Source material? As someone who lacks an obsessive interest in the details of conspiracy theories, I don’t have any source material – “pancaking” is a term I used for floors collapsing onto each other, which is what happened in these cases. If there are conspiracy-theory sites out there that have developed some government-agency-collapsed-buildings jargon in which “pancaked” has some specific meaning, I apologise for bringing my layman’s terms to the discussion.

                    • Colonial Viper

                      Why would the floors collapse on each other? The weight of the floors didn’t change, and the building seem to hold up good for roughly 27 years.

                      NIST says WTC7 collapsed because the steel bearing system on floor 13 failed at column 79 due to excessive movement of steel caused by the heating from fires. But they are wrong.

                    • left_forward

                      @ PM
                      I find your six point logic argument to be neglecting key elements:
                      1) A building suffers impact damage, burns uncontrolled for several hours and then collapses...
                      …into its own footprint with over a hundred independent witness accounts of explosions prior to the collapse, strongly suggestive of a controlled demolition.
                      2) Seven years after the collapse of WT7, the US Government appointed NIST to officially investigate the collapse. Structural engineers say it collapsed because heat from the fire expanded and weakened a critical steel beam. WT7, according to NIST then was the third steel framed building in history to ‘collapse from a carbon fire’ – and the third on 11/9/2001.
                      3) Different structural engineers say it would be impossible for the damage inflicted in point 1 to cause the building to collapse. Thousands of structural engineers and architects over 15 years have critiqued the official NIST story and many papers have been published demonstrating that the NIST account was incorrect.
                      4. And yet, the building did collapse. In my experience, when theory conflicts with actual events, it’s unlikely to be the actual events that have it wrong.
                      Er… OK.
                      5. The only people backing the “impossible” argument in point 3 are people positing a massive and perfectly-maintained government conspiracy, which raises an obvious “Occam’s razor” problem.
                      Well, no. The Engineers and Architects site that I referred you to is not positing a Government conspiracy. As engineers and architects they have a professional interested in working out how these buildings really fell. Your dismissive labeling of them as conspiracy-theorists is the part where you have applied your bias and skewed your argument.
                      6. Ergo, the structural engineers in point 2 are more likely to be correct.
                      You have relied on point 5 to exclude the thousands of engineers and architects who have provided critiques for the official story by just writing off their opinion (saying that they are laughable) without just cause.

                      CV’s article and his later explanation to corokia is an expression of concern for what he sees as the technocratic/bureaucratic class who think they know better than anyone else.. Like corokia I have concerns that his view can lead to the kind of thinking that you are displaying – where you can pick and choose which truth you want to hear in order to re-affirm your preconceived view point. Which is basically anti-science.

                    • Colonial Viper

                      The WTC7 failure scenario endorsed by NIST is demonstrably false and the analytical process they used incomprehensibly incomplete/incorrect.

                      The bearing seating around Column 79 on floor 13 was one of the stiffest structural areas on that floor.

                      There is no way that the building failed from that point.

                      Therefore the NIST conclusions are incorrect and the fall of WTC7 needs to be re-examined from scratch.

    • Nic the NZer 2.2

      “So, is it okay for the general population to be lied to by Trump, UKIP, Fox news etc because they are being lied to by people who pretend to be like them?”

      You think that the Clinton’s, Blair’s etc of this world are not above miss-leading their supporters? Then explain why she stopped saying these things now (when running for office in the role of the anti-racist)

      http://socialdemocracy21stcentury.blogspot.co.nz/2016/09/clintons-hypocrisy.html

      Has she changed her position since saying these things (and if so when and why did she have a change of heart), or was she being coy with her intentions then, or is she being coy with her intentions now?

      AFAIK, her husbands and her positions on immigration while in office are in-distinguishable from trumps stated position on immigration policy while running for office.

  3. corokia 3

    Does anyone else get pissed off with “Black swan” thing?
    FFS- Our swans ARE black!

    So the author of this book is narrow in his outlook too- the very thing he condemns others for.

    • Colonial Viper 3.1

      Hi corokia, that’s why Taleb chose the title of his book. In Rennaisance Europe they had never seen a black swan ever, only white swans. Years and years of regular scientific observations of the characteristics of swans “conclusively proved” that swans could only be white.

      However, generations of proven, broadly accepted truth about the colour of swans was instantaneously overturned by the first black swan spotted by sailors in the New World.

      Of course, during all of this time, traditional cultures in the rest of the world already knew of black swans, ahead of the “advanced” European culture.

      • Garibaldi 3.1.1

        I think you are pretty brave putting this good post up CV, what with your anti-cv fan club on this site.
        Just a bit on the swans… In a mixed population of black and white swans the smaller but more aggressive black swans will wipe the white out, mainly by destroying the white swan’s cygnets. Probably totally irrelevant, but it is a little bit of useless information from childhood observation.

        • Colonial Viper 3.1.1.1

          Cheers Garibaldi 🙂

          It seems that some people who pride themselves on “diversity” don’t actually do quite so well when it comes to actually practicing “diversity.”

      • corokia 3.1.2

        Yeah- I know the story, its just that as a NZer people still using black swans as a metaphor annoys me. Its a little, personal gripe which I should probably get over 🙂

    • Chris 3.2

      It’s still a big deal in England today, people off to St James’s Park “to see the black swans”.

  4. Flashing Light 4

    Years and years of regular scientific observations of the characteristics of swans “conclusively proved” that swans could only be white.

    Oh rilly? Sounds a lot more like the sort of “traditional, cultural and familial knowledge” that you are so effusive of rather than any sort of “scientific observation” of swans. “Of course all swans are white! It’s just common sense!! They’re white because [insert whatever mythological/mystical reason here]!!!”

    Further on Taleb’s “big thumbs up for the value of traditional, cultural and familial knowledge, in my books”, I’m assuming you’ve some explanation for why average life expectancy in the age of scientific medicine is so much higher than in societies practicing such treatments for illness? Coincidence, one assumes?

    I pretty lost respect for Taleb’s work when he railed in the introduction to The Black Swan against someone who tried to suggest his theories derived from his past experiences … then moved on to give an autobiographical account of how he came to see the world. That’s what happens when you get an autodidact publishing without peer review.

    • Colonial Viper 4.1

      Further on Taleb’s “big thumbs up for the value of traditional, cultural and familial knowledge, in my books”, I’m assuming you’ve some explanation for why average life expectancy in the age of scientific medicine is so much higher than in societies practicing such treatments for illness? Coincidence, one assumes?

      Yep, I credit plumbers and drain layers, not “scientific medicine” which has become a trillion dollar political-industrial-financial complex only peripherally related to “science.”

      • miravox 4.1.1

        “I credit plumbers and drain layers, not “scientific medicine”

        I too, very much appreciate the work of plumbers and drainlayers, and also the [social] scientists who made the observations (using population and geographic data), that the separation of drinking water and waste water was essential to public health. Because of this work, there was proof that plumbers and drainlayers should not to put drinking water outlets below sewerage outlets, for example.

        • Colonial Viper 4.1.1.1

          I have a feeling that the Romans and Greeks had also figured this out, but a long time ago.

          • miravox 4.1.1.1.1

            Hence the list reference in first link, including:

            460 BCE – 375, Hippocrates: Greek Physician and Avicenna (Ibn Sina) 1 Aug 980 – 21 Jun 1037 (a Persian – don’t be so eurocentric :-))

      • McFlock 4.1.2

        Plumbers and drainlayers address cholera and e.coli, often by accident.

        They do nothing about tuberculosis, scarlet fever, smallpox, congenital abnormalities, cancers, heart disease, sepsis and the myriad other conditions whose modern prevetatives, treatments and cures have done much to postpone the inevitable for millions if not billions.

    • Grant 4.2

      “That’s what happens when you get an autodidact publishing without peer review.”

      You mean like these autodidacts?

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_autodidacts

    • Oh rilly? Sounds a lot more like the sort of “traditional, cultural and familial knowledge” that you are so effusive of rather than any sort of “scientific observation” of swans.

      Yes. I’d be surprised if anyone ever claimed that “scientific observations” of swans “conclusively proved” they were white. Confirmation bias certainly exists in the sciences, but “black swan” is used to illustrate it because it’s simple for non-scientists to understand, not because biologists at some point thought observing lots of white swans meant it was physically impossible for one to be black.

  5. Stuart Munro 5

    Taleb is a curious fellow, and edges on philosophy in some senses – but his insights have been deployed on profiting from breaking the Nash equilibrium and so forth. Very similar to Soros, excepting generations.

    The IYI is a useful category perhaps – but there is more than one type. The likes of Wayne and the RWNJ trolls assert that we must embrace their neo-liberal nostrums in spite of their manifest failure, and try to describe any other action, such as organising protests, audits or treason trials as ‘bad decision making’.

    The IYI Taleb means is more the PC liberal set – equipped to diagnose racism or sexism to the nth degree in others, but with little practical knowledge, pragmatic value or human empathy. These are the group who persecute Roth’s protagonist in The Human Stain, and the folk that ended Labour’s last term for them. Though not all are gone they’ve begun to learn the virtue of keeping mum.

    So it’s certainly a real thing – but these middle class ineffectualities do not render Trump virtuous. Even thirty years ago he was a contender for the most visible global narcissist. It is a small step for the IYI to bite their tongues and imagine for a moment that moral judgment is not their forte. Trump is a bit like Winston in that he is highly unpredictable – but unlike him his employees and business partners, subcontractors and Trump university alumni are not supporting his candidacy.

    • Colonial Viper 5.1

      In general I agree with all your points. Trump ain’t “virtuous” hell no, not by a long shot. But he is also highly capable and highly intelligent, at least in some areas.

      You might find this recent interview of Scott Adams interesting around this topic.

      • left for dead 5.1.1

        Enjoyed that CV, thanks.

      • RedLogix 5.1.2

        Scott Adams is certainly one engaging guy. Interesting that at one point Rubin expresses the same idea as JMG … that Trump is actually more a Democrat than Republican.

        • Colonial Viper 5.1.2.1

          Indeed. Trump did much of his business in and around liberal elite New York City circles…and NYC is arguably the most diverse melting pot of the US of A.

          Any other year, Trump would be 100% at home and comfortable attending a $10,000 per head NYC Democratic fund raiser for Hillary Clinton.

          Adams notes that Trump, by first “matching” the Republican Party and now “leading” them, has essentially collapsed down the Republican Party to a shell of its former self and is now wearing it as a skin.

          I think that analogy is spot on.

          • RedLogix 5.1.2.1.1

            On his blog Adams explains Trump like this:

            I’m From New York

            You know how Trump is always saying inappropriate and violent-sounding things? Most people see that type of language as offensive and even dangerous. The exception is people who grew up in New York. We see it as “talking.”

            After college, when I moved from upstate New York to California, I had to relearn how to talk. My New York style offended nearly everyone. Let me give you an example of how a Californian talks compared to a New Yorker.

            Californian: It looks like it might rain today.

            New Yorker: Oh, shit. Fucking rain. I need that like I need a goddamned bullet in my head.

            See the difference?

            http://blog.dilbert.com/post/149983115751/why-trump-doesnt-scare-me

            What does disappoint me is that too many on the left have made the fundamental error of underestimating Trump just because they don’t like him. This is what Adams is saying, “I don’t support Trump, but can sure as hell appreciate what a skilled operator he is”.

            Incidentally exactly the same mistake the left in NZ has been making about John Key for 15 years.

      • CV, I’ve enjoyed seeing your evolution in recent times – seeing conventional western politics through the eyes of Escobar, The Saker, etc. Adams has been essential reading on this election. Good on you for wearing the flak from those who don’t want to face it.

        I do have to ask though, have you come around to Mark Ames’ view of the motivations at work behind Pierre Omidyar’s relationship with Greenwald yet?

    • Redelusion 5.2

      Conservatism, individualism and capitalism in its purest form etc is not an ideology, it is simply closes to what is, socialism communism are ideologies, If a couple wants to have 10 kids and can’t support them that’s reality, how much so called society wants to interfere in that decision is ideology, and hence the debate when is interfering by IYI or the state to much and counter productive. Even legal property rights are an ideology per see, In a world with no transaction or contracting costs formal property rights and laws enforced by state and IYI would not be required either. its not a perfect world hence Big government vs small, number of IYI will be a never ending debate

  6. Don't worry. Be happy 6

    CV forget swans black or white. I have waded through your posts and frankly, from this grandmother’s position you cannot see the forest for the trees. Enough with this nonsense. Good bye.

    • Colonial Viper 6.1

      But you can see the forest right? You accuse me of missing the forest, but you have a clear idea of what the “forest” is, right? Please, illuminate us with your cleverness and your insight. Go right ahead.

  7. Ad 7

    This is a great hook for a Sunday afternoon’s argument.

    Regrettably I’m painting the next house extension, so I’ll only dip in later.

    1. We have a marvellous tradition of anti-intellectual reverse snobbery in New Zealand. We’ve always been proud that egalitarianism+work = ‘we knocked the bastard off’
    Conquer the world. Yawn.

    Regrettably for that view, it was elite public servants from the 1930s to the 1970s who formed the concepts, policies, and programmes that laid the foundation of this country. They were – and to some extent still are – a truly mandarin class. And they were really, really good.

    Also regrettably in New Zealand, we don’t own up to how much undereducation+poverty is a massive drag on this country. At least, the left don’t. Really dumb people doing really dumb things hold us all back. It’s better to be highly educated.

    2. Nassim needs to accept his position in society, which is the perfectly honourable one that’s been around for about 5 millennia, called ‘prophet’. They often have miserable outsider lives, short lifespans, limited tenure records, listen to miserabilist bands like The The, and whose best works are usually left moldering in cardboard boxes underneath their beds. They don’t get rewarded in their lifetimes, and suffer from terminal cases of “it’s wrong to be right too soon”.

    3. He would like to think that it’s a shame that class replicates itself – elites to elites etc. French theorists have said it better since the 1960s at least. That will never change. It’s been going on for a bit. Only in the last two centuries of human history have we seen non-elites consistently attain power. I’m not saying he should be grateful to live in the time he lives in, but ….. he really should be more grateful.

    4. The closer you get to power, the more you are the elite. That’s whether you’re educated or not. That’s the only definition you need to worry about. We have plenty in this country with non-Kings accents who are at the top of the tree. You will know whether you are in or out. I don’t have to speak for the political classes and whether they are in-touch or out of touch. I’ll leave that to elections.

    5. Finally, I’m excited to be overeducated. My partner and I have 7 degrees between us, and we are pretty fun dinner party conversation.

    • Colonial Viper 7.1

      Regrettably for that view, it was elite public servants from the 1930s to the 1970s who formed the concepts, policies, and programmes that laid the foundation of this country. They were – and to some extent still are – a truly mandarin class. And they were really, really good.

      WERE. From the 1930s to the 1970s. And Taleb is clearly writing about a contemporary phenomenon which is a driver of contemporary politics.

      The NZ public servants of yore that you speak of so highly weren’t of the “intellectual yet idiot” class. They weren’t people who held themselves as superior or smarter than the ordinary Kiwi and they were not dismissive of those who did not have a university education.

      So you sorta straw manned here.

      5. Finally, I’m excited to be overeducated. My partner and I have 7 degrees between us, and we are pretty fun dinner party conversation.

      Then I’d join you for a beer and there would be 10 at the table.

      • weka 7.1.1

        I’d join you and there’d still be 10 at the table 😀

        I’ve never really seen a dichotomy between education and intelligence (is the article suggesting there is one?), probably because I’m not that well educated by mainstream standards and because I’ve known many intelligent, thoughtful and interesting people that don’t have tertiary educations. I think we need to be careful to step out of that dichotomy and just look at where the problems are. Universities by their existence aren’t a problem, but how we run them and prioritise them is. Not having an education isn’t a problem, unless one is economically forced to need one, or wants one, and can’t get one.

        • Colonial Viper 7.1.1.1

          Some of the smartest people I have come across haven’t spent a single day on a uni campus. And some of the dumbest people…well you know.

          Universities in their current form are part of a major problem. Otago University has been doing a slash and burn through its Arts departments while the Commerce types get richer and richer and bigger and bigger.

          • Andrew Geddis 7.1.1.1.1

            This is not true. While Otago’s Humanities Division is facing immediate cuts, its commerce division has been under a hiring freeze for some time and has been told that unless it improves its budgetary position it also is at risk of cuts. Claiming that “the Commerce types get richer and richer and bigger and bigger” is demonstrably false.

            But hey – I’m just an academic at Otago with first hand knowledge of what’s going on there. No doubt Taleb would say that my claims are no more dependable than some guy writing on the internet.

            • Bill 7.1.1.1.1.1

              So the Humanities are facing immediate cuts and have been subjected to cuts in the past while Commerce is being informed in might face cuts in the future, is treading water currently and previously (I’d guess) expanded while Humanities was being cut.

              That fairly close to the state of play?

              If it is, then maybe all that’s required is a little bit of past tense in CV’s statement. Or, depending on whether the threat of future of cuts come to anything, maybe not.

              • No. It isn’t a fair representation of what’s happened at Otago. There really isn’t any basis for saying that Commerce has profited in circumstances where Humanities has been cut. And I say that as someone deeply opposed to what the University is doing to Humanities.

                Trying to shoehorn what’s happening at Otago into this comment thread displays just the kind of thinking Taleb is meant to warn us about. There are cuts to Humanities at Otago (there is a swan). Commerce must therefore be profiting whilst those cuts take place (because all swans are white). Well, I’m here to tell you that this is a black swan.

                • Colonial Viper

                  Hi Andrew, I’m not faculty at Otago and don’t have first hand knowledge of discussions so thanks for clarifying.

                  Arts is being immediately slashed (though Law is largely escaping the scalpel), while there are no cuts planned for Commerce.

                  Got it.

                  • Steve

                    Well a “hiring freeze” also leads to cuts (in Commerce in this case) because it means when someone leaves there is not replacement, therefore a cut.

                    BTW we also need to make a distinction, as some here have, between being intelligent (whatever that is 🙂 ) and being educated. People (in those terms) can come in four types—IandE, notIandE, IandnotE, notIandnotE. And there are lots of degrees of E and I of course…it’s a spectrum.

                    I guess the interesting questions are: does more E lead to more I?; does E need I in order to “take”; are you more likely to benefit from E if you are I, or notI?are there really any notIandnotE people? (seems unlikely..)

                    The trap (or the thing people disingenuously promote for their own ends) is that I somehow doesn’t need E, or that E doesn’t need I. They rely on each other, but they are not the same

                    • Stuart Munro

                      A more classical perspective would be concerned with the idea of wisdom – academia no longer pursues this. It is quite possible to be educated or intelligent without being wise, or to be wise without formal education or high IQ. Many of the current government’s failures can be attributed to a lack of wisdom, which their mediocre academic accomplishments do little to temper.

                  • McFlock

                    “Got it”

                    You reckon? 🙄

                  • McFlock

                    “Got it”

                    You reckon? 🙄

    • left for dead 7.2

      Well advantage, you have proved an idea I’ve held for sometime, and I thing Wayne Mapp suffers too, that you are educated beyond your intellect .

      Best get back on the brush, and as my poppa would say, if you fall of your preach keep paint on the way down.

      Great post CV

      signed Autodidactic that suffers dyslexia , not fools.

  8. Chris 8

    I was appalled a few years ago when trawling through submissions to select committees to see that the Business Roundtable had made a number of submissions supporting National’s ongoing attempts to slash social security benefits throughout the 1990s. Roger Kerr back then even brought a chap out from England to talk about the virtues of the government getting out of social welfare altogether and returning to a Poor Law-based system that relied on private charity. It was all packaged up in the name of academic research.

  9. b waghorn 9

    Is it ironic that this post is so intellectual that i can barely understand it, not knocking , juss sayin thats all.

    • weka 9.1

      Great comment though.

    • ropata 9.2

      Yep that’s Taleb, he loves abstractions and mathematical theories, real life humanity is a bit too messy for his superior intellect

      • Colonial Viper 9.2.1

        Not at all; Taleb is simply writing for a specific audience. As far as I can tell he put in the quip about having a drink with ethnic minority cab drivers – because that is the kind of thing that he does with relish.

    • Colonial Viper 9.3

      Yes, there is that. To summarise, too many highly educated people who aren’t as smart as they think they are, who have no skin in the game and end up screwing things up for everyone else even as they comfortably advance their own careers and financial position.

      • RedLogix 9.3.1

        As always I rather enjoyed Taleb’s essay, he’s invariably thought provoking. There was a bunch things I had to google while reading it. 🙂

        I’m under the weather with a clod/flu and the brain isn’t firing much at the moment, but I’ll confine my thoughts to this. The one key skill that has been lost in the modern era is the power of observation and then making good inductions from them.

        The most remarkable man I ever knew was a a PhD in geology. I spent much of my youth working as his field assistant in remote places, just the two of us for months on end with no tracks, no huts and no support other than a nightly Mountain Radio call. Now this guy was definitely well-educated, way more than I could ever hope to be, but in equal measure he had skin in the game. He literally immersed himself into the landscape he was studying, stripped away as many filters as he could and truly LOOKED.

        Then each night in the tent he’d decompress it all, with maps, areal photos, his journal and then use his words to put an intellectual structure on what his intuition and insight had been seeing. Equal parts scientist and artist … I’ve met no-one like him in all the rest of my life.

        The problem with modern, commoditised, packaged up University education these days is that is simply doesn’t give students any exposure to this mode of understanding. It hardly speaks of it, it rarely demonstrates is, and never tests for it. And then churns out thousands of IYI’s as Taleb rather colorfully puts it.

        And yes dead-lifting. I get it.

        • Colonial Viper 9.3.1.1

          Cheers, RL.

        • Corokia 9.3.1.2

          Well one of my kids spent all of yesterday on a geology field trip observing and measuring and most of today writing and drawing up. Merely an anectdotal observation from me, but just wondering what you were basing your comment on modern university education on?

    • Rosie 9.4

      Your comment made me smile b wags.

      • Anne 9.4.1

        Yes. It gave me a few grins too. The point is: some intellectuals do so much ‘intellectualising’ that the outcome is basically gibberish . No, I’m not accusing CV of gibberish or indeed anyone else here, but having spent many years working with scientists I think I understand (only think mind you 😉 ) what CV is trying to say. Some of those scientists were fiercely intelligent and I had great respect for them. Others were, frankly, as thick and two short planks. How in God’s name they ever managed to gain their qualifications is still a complete mystery to me.

        So, b waghorn you’re not on your own. 😀

    • Scott 9.5

      I think I can summarise it for you…

      There are two sorts of clever people. A vast number that disagree with CV, and it turns out they are not really clever at all as demonstrated their view of the world being different to CVs.

      Then there are a few who really are clever, and you know who they are because they see things as CV does.

    • locus 9.6

      yeah bw, i thought the same thing, so i spent the last hour googling Nassim Taleb

      his background as a trader makes me think he and JK would be great buddies
      https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nassim_Nicholas_Taleb

      given his invention and belittling of an IYI class, I found it a bit surprising to read what an elitist silver-spoon upbringing Taleb had, but it did help me understand why he can be so intellectually disparaging…. by his own admission his aggressively mocking attitude is his “skin in the game” – though i’d say his wealth protects him from pretty much everything

      as for his views on post-gfc markets and his advice on austerity to the US and UK governments, it looks like these are just as ill-informed as the thinking of his somewhat amusing caricature of an IYI
      http://theweek.com/articles/453558/nassim-taleb-used-hero-but-today-hes-just-plain-wrong

      i did however enjoy reading some of Taleb’s ideas – they’re not original, but he does have a way with words

  10. weka 10

    I like some of this and some of it is problematic. Having skin in the game seems a critical point, yet it’s not just bureaucrats/intellectuals that have this issue, it’s the basis of identity politics (which includes class and scocioeconomics).

    Identifying the issues is important, but using a terms like IYI seems fraught with the potential to become just another label to generalise with, and end up bashing the wrong people.

    Likewise the whole separation of ordinary people from activists is a problem. Better I think to be more nuanced and talk about class or geopgraphy or power or experience whatever it is that is the actual difference.

    That’s a big thumbs up for the value of traditional, cultural and familial knowledge, in my books, and a call to attention as to how the expert technocratic classes have failed to deliver on their promises to the wider society over, and over, and over again.

    Yep. There is no reason why we can’t have both, which begs the question of why we don’t. We could look at the technocratic class, but I think the issue is more to do with power and how we share it or not. Get rid of the technocrats and put another class in charge and we still have the same yet different problems unless we learn how to share power.

  11. ropata 11

    Who are the IYI?

    The managerial elites that are just puppets of Wall St and have allowed their masters to pillage the wealth of nations and crater the global economy?

    The economists who believed that we had reached a wonderful phase of stability prior to the GFC when the house of cards was blown away?

    Guys like Bush and Trump who somehow have a Harvard degree yet are deeply ignorant of the world, can barely speak coherent English, and have no comprehension of science?

    What about leaders like Cameron, Blair, Abbott, Key who are very slick and clever but who have obtained power and wealth by being slimy lying toads?

    Or are you just complaining about the people who dare to speak out for women and minorities and the oppressed?

    • Colonial Viper 11.1

      Taleb also points directly at a certain MSM/journalist type who unquestioningly swallows whatever the bank economists say.

      Or are you just complaining about the people who dare to speak out for women and minorities and the oppressed?

      Can you tell me where in my post you got this from?

      By the way, I am quite aware of the Rescuer-Persecutor-Victim role playing game expressed in politics now that the Archdruid has explicitly laid it out.

  12. Bill 12

    Is it just me, or are some comments suggesting any challenge to the supposed intellectual superiority of one group of people is anti-intellectual? And, again, is it just me, or does that line not entail completely dismissing the intelligence of anyone not considered to a part of that grouping?

    And is that itself not naked anti-intellectualism in tooth and claw?

    I don’t have the time to go comment at length on the sad authoritarian implications of that today. So, just noting it 😉

    • weka 12.1

      Pretty much.

      Anti-intellectualism in NZ has a specific context (I assume elsewhere too), and so the discussion usually revolves around people who are academics/had tertiary education. But reacting as if this is the only kind of intelligence is anti-intelligence if not anti-intellectual 😉

      (hence my comment above about education vs intelligence being a false dichotomy).

    • RedLogix 12.2

      No I really don’t read this as ‘anti-intellectualism’. What I do read into it is the deeply unbalanced form of intellectualism that is commonly taught these days. See above at 9.3.1.

  13. keepcalmcarryon 13

    Would these be the “Chattering classes”?

    • Grant 13.1

      Ad@7: ” Finally, I’m excited to be overeducated. My partner and I have 7 degrees between us, and we are pretty fun dinner party conversation.”

      Apparently the answer is, ‘Yes’.

  14. Olwyn 14

    Two points: (1) Arthur Miller, in his memoir “TImebends”, noted that many of the New York intelligensia switched their allegiance from Marx to Freud with the rise of McCarthyism. A similar survival instinct seems to have inspired many educated liberals to make an analogous move under neoliberalism. This applies to institutions as well as individuals.

    (2) Members of this technocratic/bureaucratic class typically cannot do anything remotely as useful as conduct heart bypass surgery, or build the foundations for a motorway bridge bypass. To me, one of the great dangers of neo-liberalism is its privileging of well-coiffed immaturity and mediocrity. The favoured talents – self-presentation, networking, and political conformity, are antithetical to maturity, and this shows up all the time – like the smirk of the TV newsreader when some less-than-favoured person is mentioned, for one minor example.

    But I am not with you on Trump, mainly because he has no political track-record and I am unable to distinguish between his intentions and his medicine show. I would have to vote for Jill Stein.

    • Colonial Viper 14.1

      The Democratic Hierarchy knew that Bernie was by far the stronger contender against Trump. But he didn’t have the corporate connections and he hadn’t promised the many favours (and repayments of many debts) that Hillary had.

      So now we get this ridiculous contest between Clinton and Trump, instead of what could have been.

      • Phil 14.1.1

        The Democratic Hierarchy knew that Bernie was by far the stronger contender against Trump.

        That’s dubious bordering on outright false. Sanders’ was never truly ‘pushed’ or tested during the Dem primary campaign, while Clinton was subject to relentless negativity from both the far left and right.

        Once Clinton developed a reasonable lead in pledged delegates over Sanders she pivoted sharply to attacking Trump – she basically started the general campaign early. That gave sanders a free hand to continue campaigning on his agenda largely unchallenged.

        The headline poll results for hypothetical head-to-head match-ups between Trump and the two Dem candidates hide two critical things:

        1) The difference between Sanders’ margin and Clinton’s margin was entirely explainable by differences in Dem voting. Virtually everyone who supported Clinton was on-board with a Sander’s candidacy, but Sanders’ supporters were lukewarm on Clinton. In the intervening months, that lukewarm support has basically come on-board. Clinton is polling as well among Democrats and democrat-leaning independents as well as any previous Democratic nominee.

        2) Sanders did shockingly poorly, far worse than Clinton, among ‘true’ independents (i.e. those who are not party affiliated and do not lean either R or D in past elections – the swing voter, if you will. These people tend not to vote in primaries, so they were largely ignored or had very little weight in polling conducted during primary season.

        • Colonial Viper 14.1.1.1

          So you claim that Clinton was truly the strongest, most electable candidate the Democrats could put up against Trump, and not Sanders?

          Really?

          • Phil 14.1.1.1.1

            I think you’re committing a formal fallacy there?

            You claim Bernie was the far stronger candidate. I point out there are reasons to believe that wouldn’t be the case. That doesn’t automatically mean I think Clinton was/is the ‘stronger’ candidate against Trump.

            —–

            If you want to pin me down on what I do believe, it’s this:

            Head to head polling of hypothetical general election match-ups, whilst the primaries are still going six months or more out from a general election, have literally zero information value for predicting the outcome of said general election.

            Additionally, history shows that the candidates with the strongest support from within their party infrastructure (i.e. the party “elites”) tend to perform better in general elections than those candidates who do not enjoy that same support. If you take for granted that the Democratic elite would be lukewarm on Sanders as nominee (as you indeed suggest) then in that sense alone I would say Clinton was probably the stronger candidate.

            • Colonial Viper 14.1.1.1.1.1

              Head to head polling of hypothetical general election match-ups, whilst the primaries are still going six months or more out from a general election, have literally zero information value for predicting the outcome of said general election.

              Of course, this then neatly dismisses all the polling which showed Sanders as being far more popular than Clinton in head to head comparisons with Trump, since all this polling was taken months ago before Bernie pulled out.

              Also I take your point that the party ‘elites’ were overwhelmingly backing Clinton and that would give her the advantage of the Democratic machinery.

              Part of what I am saying is that that in itself is a core part of the problem. The Democratic hierarchy knew that they had a baggage laden candidate who did not poll as well against Trump (compared to Bernie) but they picked her anyway for their own reasons.

              • Phil

                Of course, this then neatly dismisses all the polling which showed Sanders as being far more popular than Clinton in head to head comparisons with Trump, since all this polling was taken months ago before Bernie pulled out.

                That is EXACTLY the point!

                All evidence from 40-odd years of the modern primary-nomination format tells us that this kind of head-to-head polling, during the primary campaign, is of literally no use for determining the eventual winner of the electoral college or the margin of victory.

      • RedLogix 14.1.2

        I don’t want to derail this onto the Trump/Hilary thing, but when I read this I kicked myself for not seeing the obvious sooner:

        That can be explained by a simple thought experiment. Let’s imagine, dear reader, that you were to go into a Starbuck’s in a hip neighborhood in Portland, Oregon, and ask the people there—dyed-in-the-wool Democrats to a man, woman, gender-nonspecific individual, and child—to describe their nightmare presidential candidate, the person they’d least like to see in the White House next January.

        They’d tell you that it would be a political insider openly in bed with banks and big business who spent years in public service pandering to the rich, who is also a neoconservative who pursued regime-change operations against Third World countries and was committed to military confrontation with the Russians. The candidate would have a track record supporting the kind of trade agreements that allow corporations to overturn environmental laws, and would also be dogged by embarrassingly detailed allegations of corruption on a stunningly blatant scale. The candidate would insist that everything was just fine with America, and anyone who disagreed was just being negative. Oh, and it would help if the candidate had engaged in race-baiting behavior, and had insisted that a woman’s claim that she was raped wasn’t to be taken seriously if it was directed at a member of the candidate’s own family.

        That is to say, the rank and file Democrats’ idea of the worst possible President is Hillary Clinton.

        Now let’s imagine that you were to hop on a Greyhound, get off in Bowling Green, Kentucky, head for the nearest Southern Baptist church social, and ask the people there—dyed-in-the-wool Republicans down to the very last lady, gentleman, and well-scrubbed child—to describe their nightmare presidential candidate, the person they’d least like to see in the White House come January.

        They’d tell you that of course it would be a Yankee from New York City, which still edges out Los Angeles in the minds of many of the godly as the ultimate cesspit of evil in North America. The candidate would be a profiteer who made a pile of money exploiting vice, a wheeler-dealer who repeatedly declared bankruptcy to get out from under inconvenient debts. The candidate would be vulgar—you have no idea of the force of this word until you’ve heard it uttered in tones of total disdain by an elderly woman who’s a downwardly mobile descendant of Southern planters—and a hypocrite in religious matters, mouthing only such Christian catchphrases as might help win the election. Such a candidate would of course be on a second or third or fourth marriage, have fathered a child out of wedlock, and would fail to show any trace of pious horror toward gays, lesbians, transexuals, and the like. Finally, such a candidate would claim that America is no longer the greatest nation on Earth and has to make sweeping changes to become great again.

        That is to say, the rank and file Republicans’ idea of the worst possible President is Donald Trump.

        I suppose its probably too late in the game for both of the parties to do the right thing and swap candidates, so that the Republicans can go back to running a corrupt establishment neoconservative and the Democrats can field a libertine populist demagogue. Lacking such a sensible move, it’s not at all surprising that so many people have basically gone gaga, as Democratic and Republican voters try to convince themselves that they really do want to vote for someone who’s literally everything they least want in the Oval Office. That degree of cognitive dissonance does not make for calm discussions, rational decisions, or sane politics.

        http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com.au/2016/08/learning-from-failure-modest.html

      • mosa 14.1.3

        Great post CV and thought provoking.
        With regards to the current Presidential race Bernie was the first and only candidate too talk about a post neo lib future and he was articulating sound policies in which to replace the current maintsream economic orthodoxy .

        Had he succeeded in winning the presidency he would have faced serious difficulty getting his programme through a hostile congress and senate and pressure from vested interests.

        So not a lot of choice for the american voter this time or at any time with Stein only capturing 2 % .
        The american voters fed up with the current system will vote on November 8 thinking they will send a message about their disillusionment voting for Trump but he is a product of the very system that they are angry at , neo lib economics.

        Would have been interesting to watch had Bernie succeed and he had changed the current thinking of the IYI after the plebs had had gone against his or her wishes with their choice.
        It would have been a social revolution not just an economic one achieved by the un educated.

    • weka 14.2

      “Arthur Miller, in his memoir “TImebends”, noted that many of the New York intelligensia switched their allegiance from Marx to Freud with the rise of McCarthyism. A similar survival instinct seems to have inspired many educated liberals to make an analogous move under neoliberalism. This applies to institutions as well as individuals.”

      Awesome obeservation, thanks Olwyn. What was the shift from and to under neoliberalism?

      I wonder if it’s a similar dynamic that happened to many of the hippies once they hit the 80s and realised they weren’t that committed to the revolution when they were older and less able/willing to do without. Thus we had an upsurge in counter-culture morph into the apolotical travesty that is the New Age (thankfully we appear to be getting passed that).

      • Olwyn 14.2.1

        What was the shift from and to under neoliberalism? A shift from holding society to account for its hypocrisies, cruelties and injustices, to telling people what to do in the manner that Taleb suggests – what to eat, what to think, etc. I agree that a strand of the counterculture morphed into the New Age thing, but also think that an urbanised version of it still permeates neoliberal thought. The idea that confidence gives rise to real-world conditions rather than the reverse is one example. Their determined efforts not to be associated with negativity is another. Without wanting to divert the thread, Malcolm Turnbull’s election night speech offers a fabulous example of this last. He has just lost most of his majority on an election gamble, he doesn’t want to give the speech, and his fury keeps bursting through the veneer of positivity he feels obliged to maintain. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RPoK3NDuyhA

        • weka 14.2.1.1

          Don’t get me started on the New Age and neoliberalism 😉 or libertarianism either.

          Re the shift of academics under neoliberalism I was thinking about ideological or political categories and what the NZ equivalent would be of Marx to McCarthyism. I guess it’s the move from valuing an egalitarian society to being willing to uphold a user pays one. That’s the survival imperative. Why should I lose my privileged job by being too liberal?

          I need to think about the telling people what to eat etc aspect.

          • Olwyn 14.2.1.1.1

            By Miller’s account, it is not so much that the intelligentsia moved from Marx to McCarthy, but more toward something that kept them out of his firing line, and which focused on the individual rather than society. Similarly, I don’t think that educated people (which extend beyond academia) have generally gone over to user-pays, but have tended toward ideas that don’t conflict with the dominant ethos, which often results in their “telling people what to do.” One must bear in mind that those whose ideas coincide with the dominant ethos are also more likely to get employed in the first place.

  15. Phil 15

    CV,

    Both you and Taleb have fundamentally miss-diagnosed the problem.

    If you look across the intellectual fields, be it those related to medicine/health, climate/environment, physics and chemistry, heck even economics, there are a huge number of experts doing great, publishable and verifiable, work today that is advancing the understanding of humankind in literally countless ways.

    The problem is not that we have too many experts telling us what to do, it’s that we live in an “information” age where advances and truths are being lost in the noise of pseudo-science and sensationalism. Our media are complicit in this when they give ‘balance’ to opposing views – climate change being the obvious example. The trumpeting of health studies that are distorted through various translations like a game of pass-the-whisper being another common example.

    • RedLogix 15.1

      Phil

      You may enjoy this:

      https://theconversation.com/what-exactly-is-the-scientific-method-and-why-do-so-many-people-get-it-wrong-65117

      In the old days when you where taught science by teachers we more or less relied on their experience to filter the course content down to ideas that were generally accepted and useful. This wasn’t a perfect process, but it did keep most of us from straying too far into nonsense.

      These days the internet is an unconstrained hose of information good, bad and lunatic, … and few can make sense of it all.

    • weka 15.2

      “The problem is not that we have too many experts telling us what to do, it’s that we live in an “information” age where advances and truths are being lost in the noise of pseudo-science and sensationalism.”

      And yet the fat hypothesis fiasco arose in the 1940s and 50s, not the information age. The reasons why it arose and was allowed to arise go back much further and are embedded in some pretty basic power and control dynamics whereby some people are afforded a say and others are blocked.

      Worse, I’d say it’s the information age that finally allowed the fat hypothesis to be challenged. There have been research scientists challenging the hypothesis all the way through, but it’s because of the internet that they were able to be heard much more quickly, and that information was then taken up in the medical and dietary fields as well as by science journalists. A lot of work was done via the internet and media before it was finally in the mainstream and on the cover of Time. Without the internet, I don’t think that would have happened yet.

  16. Rosie 16

    Goodness, this is the second time in a week that I have supported your view CV. What is happening! 😀

    Now I don’t know Nasim Taleb, but as I’ve been saying for years, just from my own little viewpoint, and mental notes I’ve taken from observing behaviours and relationships in the workplace, that the intelligence of the ordinary working person is often underestimated by their “superiors”, those with a university education. We are often sneered at behind our backs. I’ve heard it, I’ve seen it.

    Consider different types of intelligence and skill sets. How many times do you see a manager employed who has a degree but doesn’t comprehend the content of the work task and has next to no skills in communicating with those supposedly beneath them? They then get offended when the hoi polloi have to explain things to them, and go on the defensive in an attempt to cover their discomfort at their manufactured class façade slipping. No class in that response and no humility.

    Has it been the privatising of education that encouraged a deeper divide between regular workers and tertiary educated workers? Do highly educated younger people feel they have to express their superiority to justify their burden of debt?

    The move from on the job training to getting a diploma to be qualified to undertake easily learnt skills for tasks is getting ridiculous too. It’s totally unnecessary. For example, retail and hospitality management. To start with you have to have the right personality for these roles to start with – that can be fostered but it can’t be learnt.

    • weka 16.1

      Hmm, maybe having a useless education is considered better than no education and the push for everyone to go to tertiary level has entrenched a new kind of classism?

      • miravox 16.1.1

        It took me 25 years to get the academic quals I have, and still I’m not part of the educated elite. Why? Well… I’ve been told, I don’t fit, they don’t know where to put me. The social and managerial elite would rather people who have studied the working class and the disadvantaged, not lived it.

        It’s not education, however that is achieved – formal qualifications or other, attitude and exclusion count for a lot.

        I do feel Nasim Taleb is doing quite a bit of sneering himself.

        • Colonial Viper 16.1.1.1

          The social and managerial elite would rather people who have studied the working class and the disadvantaged, not lived it.

          Yep – people who fancy themselves as helping the poor even though they can’t stand the smell of the poor

          I do feel Nasim Taleb is doing quite a bit of sneering himself.

          Yes indeed, there is a certain New York City edge to his personality, and he doesn’t suffer fools gladly.

          • miravox 16.1.1.1.1

            I guess I was a little bit grumpy with the previous comment. It’s not education that is the problem.

            Education is one of the essential components in improving well-being. It is the lack of acceptance of the value of different types of education and the pigeon-holing of ‘types’. The value is in what people have learned, not which people have done the learning or how that learning has occurred.

            I guess those with a narrow view of education have to to trade-off the impacts of group think and challenges those that challenge that.

            In my experience, the most accepting are academics types who are capable but still curious about other viewpoints – the ‘experts’ that are currently derided by government and corporate management.

            • Colonial Viper 16.1.1.1.1.1

              In the old days there was recognition of such a thing as “the school of hard knocks.”

              It’s that kind of life experience/life long learning that has been substantially devalued, and indeed derided, by some self styled intellectuals.

    • Colonial Viper 16.2

      Yep. Talk to anyone out there who actually “does the work” in a work place. Then ask them about the highly paid highly educated management who waft in and out who in general terms have no fucking clue how to do any of the work. Or who whenever they try, cause bigger fuck ups than is worth it.

      Now and then you find quality management and leadership in work places of course.

      Now and then.

  17. Flashing Light 17

    There is also, of course, a huge irony in CV citing an “expert” – the “the foremost risk statistician/probability philosopher of our age”, no less! – to tell us that we shouldn’t be trusting other “experts”. Just what skin has Taleb got in the game (to use his expression) that should make us trust what he says over and above anyone else?

    Oh, yeah – he’s made money. So on this left-wing blog site, the only reason to accept Taleb’s view of the world is that it’s been successful in making him rich.

    • Colonial Viper 17.1

      How sad you’ve had to resort to attacking Taleb instead of making an intellectual argument.

      • flashing Light 17.1.1

        But you’re the one who posted him as telling us “the truth” about “how things really are”. So … what basis do you have for the claim that his view of the world is correct, aside from:

        (1) His claimed expertise (which Taleb himself says is useless unless the expert has “skin in the game”); and

        (2) The only evidence of his expertise being that he’s made a lot of money using his theories (so you’re asking us to believe him because he’s rich).

        Or, to put it more simply, applying Taleb’s own criteria, why should we care what Taleb says ahead of any other multi-millionaire with a world view (like Peter Thiel, or George Soros, or the Koch brothers)?

        • Bill 17.1.1.1

          But you’re the one who posted him as telling us “the truth” about “how things really are”.

          Where in the post is the claim made that Taleb is telling the truth about how things really are? The post simply says that Taleb explains a contributory factor to our current situation – nothing more than that. You might disagree with the existence of that factor. So put your case.

          As for caring about what Taleb says more than you’d care for what others say…does it all just come down to who’s best to follow and/or believe in your book? Aren’t you capable of independently evaluating information and/or opinion? You need a pointer? A great teacher to follow? Maybe you find a need to ‘fit in’ and agree with some group of people who’ve secured a position of authority for themselves?

          • Flashing Light 17.1.1.1.1

            Two things on this.

            If it is just some bloke’s reckons which are no more likely to be true than anyone elses, then it seems weird to devote an entire lengthy post to them. You may be surprised to hear that there’s lots and lots of people with reckons about stuff. So why pick him out of the internet and devote so much time to him?

            For another, if Taleb’s views have no claim to be no more or less likely to be true than anyone elses, it seems odd to introduce them with the statement that “he could well be the foremost risk statistician/probability philosopher of our age.” Why make that claim to authority if we’re being asked to judge what he says purely on the merits of what he says alone?

            So, once again, given that Taleb’s message is that there’s this entire group of bogus experts out there spouting bullshit, what makes him an authoritative and reliable expert commentator on such matters? Because if you read his books themselves, you’ll see his self-proclaimed genius lies in the fact that he applied his views and made lots of money doing so. If folks on the Standard find that a compelling ground to trust him on … well, your lookout, I guess.

            • RedLogix 17.1.1.1.1.1

              given that Taleb’s message is that there’s this entire group of bogus experts out there spouting bullshit,

              Not really. Read the whole article again. What I read was something quite different; about the pitfalls of mistaking education for wisdom.

              • flashing Light

                What we have been seeing worldwide, from India to the UK to the US, is the rebellion against the inner circle of no-skin-in-the-game policymaking “clerks” and journalists-insiders, that class of paternalistic semi-intellectual experts with some Ivy league, Oxford-Cambridge, or similar label-driven education who are telling the rest of us 1) what to do, 2) what to eat, 3) how to speak, 4) how to think… and 5) who to vote for.

                Yeah … I’m happy with how I characterised Taleb’s position.

                • Colonial Viper

                  Are you? I’m not surprised? Your highly personal, reflexively defensive reaction is only natural. But Taleb has put into words a phenomenon that large numbers of people have recognised – and acted on – for themselves in their own way i.e. taking the advice of self proclaimed experts with a grain of salt.

                  Or sometimes, an entire salt mine.

                  • flashing Light

                    Hey – all I’m asking is that you justify your claim that Taleb has any sort of special insight into this area using his own criteria.

                    But if you’re now defaulting to saying “random guy on the internet says something that I think sounds about right” mode, then that’s fine. But if that’s the case, you just might want to change your introduction to your post, because you’re admitting it’s misleading.

                    • Colonial Viper

                      Hey – all I’m asking is that you justify your claim that Taleb has any sort of special insight into this area using his own criteria.

                      I am pretty fucking sure he dead lifts. How about you?

                • RedLogix

                  Defensive much?

                  I think the purpose of Talib’s article and CV’s post IS to to be thought provoking. I’m 100% comfortable with that. The whole idea of thought provoking is not to tell you what to think, but to inspire you to have a think for yourself.

                  Everyone who reads it WILL have different thoughts and reactions provoked in us. It would be extremely odd if we all read it and all agreed on what it meant.

                  So while your characterisation his entire group of bogus experts out there spouting bullshit might well be part of Talib’s meaning, let me just say that it certainly was not all I took from it.

                  Maybe I was just luckier than you.

                  • flashing Light

                    Defensive? Of what?

                    Look, if some guy gets put up on a post as being an authority we all ought to listen to and think about because he “could very well be the foremost risk statistician/probability philosopher of our age”, exactly how is it unreasonable to challenge that alleged authority in relation to the topic he’s discussing? Especially when he falls short of his own standards for reliable expertise (where is his “skin in the game” here)?

                    Or are you suggesting we just doff our caps to CV’s presented expert and treat his words as carrying weight because of his education and claimed intellectual background? Which is the very sin that he accuses the IYIers of perpetuating.

                    [Multiple times now you have decided to attack Taleb as a person, his attitude, his credentials and his qualifications, instead of engaging with the substance of what he has written. Do that once more and you will be banned from this post. Now, try engaging with some intellectual debate instead of being such a dickhead. CV

            • weka 17.1.1.1.1.2

              I don’t know who Taleb is and I didn’t follow the links. I simply read the post and thought about it. I didn’t feel I was expected to take on Taleb’s ideas because he has some authority, I felt I was presented with some ideas to think about and then talk about. /shrug.

              When I am thinking about what to write as an author on ts I look for things I am interested in, topics where I will learn something by writing about them, and things I will enjoy writing about. I also think about who might be interested in reading what I write and what kind of discussion might be generated. By that last criteria I would say this is one of the more successful posts in the last week. Interesting debate.

              • flashing Light

                Oh, sure … you can generate lots of discussion by posting controversial things on a website that grossly characterise an entire alleged class of folks and use insulting language in doing so. So, success! People have responded!! More hits for the site!!!

                But CV introduced said controversial things about how bogus experts are misleading us about how we should live by crowing that it came from someone who “could very well be the foremost risk statistician/probability philosopher of our age.” What’s the point of telling us that, if not to give said views a status of more than simple reckons of a bloke on the internet? And if we’re meant to accord Taleb’s views any sort of credibility because of who he is (and if we’re not, why tell us this about him?), then CV needs to tell us how Taleb avoids his very own critiques of “no-skin-in-the-game policymaking ‘clerks’ and journalists-insiders”. Otherwise, isn’t he in exactly the same position as all those IYIers he has so much fun denigrating?

                So … exactly hat “skin” does Taleb have in this game that means we should accord his ideas any sort of status? Because all I’m asking is that we apply the same standards of judgment to Taleb as he says we should apply to those he’s discussing. Is that too much to do? And, surely, it’s easily answered? Right? Right??

                • Colonial Viper

                  Oh, sure … you can generate lots of discussion by posting controversial things on a website that grossly characterise an entire alleged class of folks and use insulting language in doing so. So, success! People have responded!! More hits for the site!!!

                  I see that you have again responded against Taleb in a largely personal and ad hominem fashion.

                  BTW do you some how see yourself as belonging to this “grossly characterised entire alleged class of folks” (sic)?

                  Is this why your reaction has been to pull down the shutters and stick your fingers in your ear holes and chant “nah nah nah nah nahhhh…”

                  • flashing Light

                    Oh, goodness – now who’s getting overly personal in his comments? But, no. I don’t see myself as a part of that class at all, and Taleb’s views on them don’t really fuss me. I do, however, think he’s a bit of bombastic windbag who is convinced that he’s right on everything, is wildly inconsistent in applying his own standards to himself, and refuses to accept criticism of his views even when he gets things demonstrably wrong. See, e.g.,

                    http://theweek.com/articles/453558/nassim-taleb-used-hero-but-today-hes-just-plain-wrong
                    https://debunkingdenialism.com/2014/08/08/anti-gmo-statistician-nassim-n-taleb-%E2%80%8Fresponds-to-criticism-sort-of/

                    So I see myself as part of the class of folks who value intellectual honesty and don’t think it’s too much for people writing on the internet to be held to that standard.

                    [See my warning to you above. You don’t value intellectual honesty at all. If you did, you wouldn’t be smearing shit all over Taleb and pretending it was honey. Change your ways and you’ll avoid a ban. Engage with the substance of what Taleb has written, do not continue on with your brainless ad homs, please. CV ]

  18. Sabine 18

    those of us that have no idea who that geezer Taleb is are we anti-intellectual or are we the smart ones?

    btw, the Spree a river running through Berlin has a few side channels – rather pretty – which are full of ducks n swans in summer, pretty as i said before, and the swans? Black and white ones. Pretty too btw.

    • weka 18.1

      “those of us that have no idea who that geezer Taleb is are we anti-intellectual or are we the smart ones?”

      Lol. I don’t know who Taleb is, I just went off what was in the post.

  19. Doug Mackie 19

    I hope CV is just subluxing us with this post.

  20. Guerilla Surgeon 20

    Here’s the thing. Science is uncertain. Scientists know this. As Dara O Briain put it “science knows it doesn’t know everything, otherwise it’d stop.” But somewhere between the scientists and the public is someone who translates scientific knowledge as if it was absolutely certain. Personally, I want information about health and medical matters that is a little bit more substantial than “It worked for me granny.” Folk knowledge is just that – we don’t know if it works until it’s been tested. And I don’t care for how many thousands of years people have been doing it – whatever the fuck it is. People have been killing each other with folk remedies for thousands of years too.

    • Bill 20.1

      But somewhere between the scientists and the public is someone who translates scientific knowledge as if it was absolutely certain.

      Thought you were going to lead on to general practitioners (or those that keep them awash in propaganda) or sociologists and the like. Actually, you kind of did…just not the one’s who’ve been bought and sold or whipped into line.

      Sometimes it’s better to listen to the knowledges of passing or past generations. Sometimes not.

      • Guerilla Surgeon 20.1.1

        No, I was mostly referring to science reporters. Or such of them as is left after the general carnage that new services have been subjected to in the last 10 years or so. And no, it is never better to listen to the knowledge of past generations until present generations have done some sort of test on it to see if it works. There is no such thing as alternative medicine. Because when it’s tested and we find out that it works it becomes “medicine”. Otherwise it’s rubbish, or at the very least – we don’t know.

        • Colonial Viper 20.1.1.1

          Do you really think that it’s that prized, the membership of your little self defined club of what’s accepted as medicine. How sure are you that your mental construct here is even a valid, real construct when compared to what actually happens in the real world?

          PS “alternative medicine” (which you say doesn’t exist) is going to out last conventional western medicine.

          Especially as the economic and energy structures required to support conventional western medicine continue to deteriorate, more and more people will willingly (or be forced to) turn to “alternative medicine”.

          Already, your “proven” medicine is struggling to deliver what people want, when they want it. In and many instances, giving people options that they actually don’t want.

  21. whispering kate 21

    Is there such a thing as two different types of intelligence, I know of people who have tremendous lateral thinking capabilities, you could put them in a room with almost nothing and they could produce something every time, somebody else wouldn’t have a clue what to do. They can sort out ways to do a job or find a solution to a problem, ingenuity I think it is called. I know of people who have to use a recipe book to produce food, they haven’t a clue how to be an instinctive cook and to just sort of know what goes with what and have the confidence to produce food with what’s in the cupboard on hand.

    Other people I know are very clever and have got honors degrees to prove it but don’t have versatility to think outside the square although I do know that they, the universities do proclaim that that is what they do teach – to think outside the square.

    It’s a funny old world – both types have talents to offer but it doesn’t necessarily agree that those who are uneducated do not possess natural intelligence. Because of the old boys’ network and what sort of school/university you graduated in and CV showing qualifications then because of the lack of qualifications the uneducated are obviously on the back foot trying to survive in this tough old world. They may fare better in times of serious deprivation because of their natural intelligence in survival.

    • RedLogix 21.1

      they haven’t a clue how to be an instinctive cook and to just sort of know what goes with what and have the confidence to produce food with what’s in the cupboard on hand.

      A perfect description of it kate.

      It comes back to the idea of “skin in the game”. It’s about being present and connected. It’s about a geologist who scrambled and pored over the toughest landscapes in NZ with nothing more than what two of us could carry in our packs, it’s about looking in the cupboard and knowing you turn it into a fine meal, it’s artist who can convey hidden meanings, it’s the technician looking at a trend data plot and knows there is something not right, it’s the doctor who can almost smell the illness, it’s the teacher who both instructs and inspires. There are endless images that could come to mind.

      Every worthwhile intellectual endeavour is a melding of intuition, art and science, but invariably our universities teach only to the last of these three. Is it little surprise then so many of their graduates fall short in the real world?

    • Bill 21.2

      Put a professor on a boat in the middle of the sea with no modern navigational aids. Put an illiterate fisher in the same situation. Who lives and who dies?

      Well, the smart one, right? 😉

      • Guerilla Surgeon 21.2.1

        Don’t be silly. If that professor is an astronomer he will probably be able to navigate better than the illiterate fisher. And yet I wouldn’t want to see the illiterate guy in charge of the nuclear plant.

        • RedLogix 21.2.1.1

          And then a cloud comes past and your astronomer is fucked.

          In the meantime your fisherman knows not just the stars, but the currents, the birds, the breezes, the wave patterns, the smell of the land and other subliminal clues I can’t even guess at.

          And in my lifetime experience as an automation engineer, your professor really is the LAST person you want actually in the control room of a nuclear plant. Sure I want this person consulting into the design team, reviewing the HAZOP’s, advising on the risks and mitigation strategies, researching and testing the unexpected and so on … but actually in charge of the plant? No, that is another set of skills altogether.

          Absolutely this does not mean I am disparaging education or science. Far from it, I am educated, I earn a living implementing science and I’m hell of a grateful for this. But I’ve also learnt that there are other forms of knowledge and intelligence that are equally useful in their own ways.

          • Guerilla Surgeon 21.2.1.1.1

            If the fishermen is in an area he knows, then he knows the currents and the rest of it may be. But usually anyone can tell a land bird from a seabird, and even I know what land smells like. I know that there are other forms of knowledge, but I think you’re exaggerating in your example is all.

  22. Chooky 22

    interesting Post and comments…thanx CV

    …i would think that neoliberalism is an ideology that has all of society in its grip…and intellectuals are not exempt

    ….many intellectuals are not free thinkers or critical thinkers…for several reasons…and it is a mistake to equate “intellectual” with free thinker or critical thinker or person of integrity

    ( an intellectual is adept at absorbing the ‘intelligence ‘ of the day, which is not necessarily unbiased or unpoliticised)

    ….1) they have climbed the academic ladder

    ….2.)the universities are institutions in the grip of funding by politicians and political parties … who in turn are in the grip of the multinational corporates and the 1% that owns just about everything

    3.) with neoliberalism the term “Intellectual” has been downgraded… just as universities have been reduced and downgraded into skills and vocational training rather centres of culture, humanities and philosophical debate and critical thinking

    4.) …many academics are afraid to speak out ( so do we have a form of neoliberal fascism?)

  23. Interesting that Taleb explicitly cites fatphobia as an area in which we’ve allowed a sense of intellectual superiority to override objectivity. Far too many people on the left are still convinced that a paternalistic “we must punish the poor people for poor choices, then they’ll be magically thin” approach is the solution to health inequities, corporate control of food, and economic oppression.

    • RedLogix 23.1

      dietary advice reversing after 30 years of fatphobia,

      I think Taleb was using the word ‘fatphobia’ in the context of the idea that eating fat would make you fat. Which of course turned out to be a very bad bit of science, but one that was conveniently profitable for food companies. And so persisted for a lot longer than its ‘Use by Date’.

      The three year naturopathy course my partner did over 30 years ago was quite clear on the point … there was nothing at all wrong with naturally sourced fats from traditional sources. As good an example of the value of traditional observational knowledge as you’ll find anywhere.

    • Grim 23.2

      Fat phobia: referring to intake of fat in diets, not fat people,

      who would have guessed, fat and salt are good for you and required for healthy body and brain function.

      Bad diet choices in this case would be listening to “experts” who for the last 30 years pushed “low salt anti-fat” based on no actual evidence.

      Knowledge is not intelligence,

      and second hand knowledge what is that?

      you know what you have been told, but was what you were told true?

      • Richard Rawshark 23.2.1

        There’s one health message that covers everything.

        “Moderation in everything”

        It’s all that’s required but what would happen to all those scientists, and agencies, and health jobs-worth’s that fucking RAM common sense down our throats. Constantly.

        Banana’s are good eating 4000 in one sitting might make you sick, well who would have thought eh.

        • left_forward 23.2.1.1

          Hogwash Richard Rawshank.
          When it has been scientifically observed (a form of robust observation that attempts to isolate other factors and remove noise) that consuming carcinogenic substances leads to a higher likelihood of cancer, then common sense will say to you that its not a good idea to ‘moderately’ consume that substance, in contrast to say broccoli, which has been observed to protect people from cancer.
          To suggest in the context of this thread that scientific observation is all too intellectual is just being dumb.
          You also seem to be ignorant of the fact that scientists generally don’t tend to ram anything down your throat – its usually the media that does that.
          As far as health professionals are concerned (me being one), it shouldn’t be too difficult to work out that observing unnecessary death, pain and suffering may lead to concerns about what our so called ‘moderate’ diets are causing.

  24. rhinocrates 24

    For those interested, a very good read on this theme, with a lot more depth and sophistication than is possible in a short article would be Voltaire’s Bastards by John Ralston Saul. I strongly recommend it.

  25. rhinocrates 25

    Apropos of nothing, probably, but…

    Maybe I didn’t go to some fancy-pancy Ivy League med school, and maybe I didn’t go to some other med school, even the one down in Grenada which was my fall-back but whatever, that doesn’t give you the right to bully me! I have had it!

    – Algernop Krieger

  26. Pat 26

    “Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the life-long attempt to acquire it.” – Albert Einstein

  27. Richard Rawshark 27

    . clap …clap..clap

    Best piece I have read here.

    My sentiments on the subject fit very well with this.

    We are not being governed at all, we are being manipulated by clever uni dicks.

    They haven’t studied how to fix things or economics they study stats and advertising and learn how to tell you things are smelling of roses when your knee deep in shit.

    Or they come from a state home and think they know it all.

    and the one i’m not pointing at, at, at, all is one Reb,, Reb..

    can’t say it, it offends me to utter the words of one so thoroughly out of touch, out of her mind, and out here!

    Another Uni know it all.

  28. Puckish Rogue 28

    I was busy this weekend so I couldn’t post but its a good post and explains a few things

    Need a few more like this

  29. s y d 29

    Chris Hedges (always a lil bit OTT) has a few comments on careerists, which I think, might be partly what IYI is tending towards

    “The most dangerous force in the industrialized world does not come from those who wield radical creeds, whether Islamic radicalism or Christian fundamentalism, but from legions of faceless bureaucrats who claw their way up layered corporate and governmental machines. They serve any system that meets their pathetic quota of needs”

    http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/10476-the-careerists

    • RedLogix 29.1

      And if we are honest, there is at least a little bit of IYI/careerist in all of us.

      I’m way less concerned with pointing the finger at others, than recognising and confronting the same tendency within myself.

      • Olwyn 29.1.1

        And if we are honest, there is at least a little bit of IYI/careerist in all of us.
        Yes, in the sense that when we talk about someone “doing well” we are often (though not always) referring to their material/social advancement. But there is a difference between dismissing an individual as a mere careerist, and questioning a culture that elevates docile IYI types, while continuously looking for ways to undercut or diminish those with a solid, practical contribution to make.

        • RedLogix 29.1.1.1

          Yes I hadn’t thought of it like that.

          The place where I am happiest is off in the bush or mountains, where for a short time at least I can completely escape it. It’s a place where I’m 100% accountable to myself for my own choices and actions.

          And while railing against the ‘culture’ may be satisfying, worthwhile even, in the final analysis the only person you can change is yourself.

        • McFlock 29.1.1.2

          Although a “solid, practical contribution” is often subjective, if it’s over and above just doing the damned job.

          The flipside of a workplace visionary is someone who uses up management and colleague time trying to reinvent the wheel – investing more resources into improving what the organisation does than what the actual benefit will be.

          And then, in one of the worst case scenarios, they quit, burn their bridges, and try going somewhere else or starting up a company. Good on them if it works, but the office is probably calmer without them around…

      • Colonial Viper 29.1.2

        Chris Hedges has often talked about Hannah Arendt’s observations about the “banality of evil.”

        The ordinary men and women in Nazi Germany who made sure that the trains to the concentration camps had enough carriages, that telegrams to Hitler were delivered speedily, that machine tools used to make shells and bullets were properly maintained.

        And the self justification need not be extravagant or convoluted; the motivations are all ones that most will be familiar with: providing for one’s family, paying the bills, fulfilling ones contractual obligations, looking out to progress ones career or business.

        But it all keeps the terrible wheels turning with a terrible purpose, in a terrible direction.

        • ropata 29.1.2.1

          Kiwis have had little compunction about destroying rivers and lakes and pillaging fish in the name of profit. If we are willing to kill our ecosystems and communities without complaint, it isn’t too far a step to concentration camps for refugees (Nauru) and other undesirables (Christmas Island)

  30. save nz 30

    Great post… explains a lot…

  31. ropata 31

    Just gotta say, great post, really thought provoking thanks CV.
    Some of the replies were just as interesting. This kind of stuff keeps me coming back to TS

  32. maninthemiddle 32

    Hi CV

    Superb post. The IYI scourge is found on both the left and right of politics, but one cannot help but look across the Caucus of the NZ Labour Party and see far too many people whose claim to fame has very little in common with the real lives of NZ’ers. Grant Robertson being one that immediately springs to mind.

  33. Repateet 33

    I saw the word “class ” in the headline and thought the article was going to be about schools.

    I saw the “Intellectual Yet Idiot” bit and thought about education.

    The Minister of Education is Hekia Parata. It is likely that when a book about intellectual giants of New Zealand education is written there will not be a chapter about her.

    I wonder if anyone is considering writing on, “Thinking they’re an Intellectual but are an Idiot” ?

  34. McFlock 34

    I’ve met some educated idiots. By and large, they were in the minority of educated people I know, particularly if you asked them something about their professional field. The “IYI” exist, but nowhere near the extent implied in the post. They are not a distinct “class”, as the post asserts.

    So I asked myself “where’s the value in the ‘IYI’ terminology?”

    I believe that the usefullness of the IYI label is in its subjectivity: anyone who is educated but dares to have an opinion different to someone in the much more numerous “Idiot, yes I said idiot” population gets to be bashed with the IYI stick. Anyone the IYISI happens to agree with is a “foremost philospher of our age” or other superlative, whereas if someone’s position doesn’t fit into the IYISI’s own confirmation bias then the IYI label evades any consideration of reality.

    Someone above talked about how a professor would be more useless at sea than an illiterate fisherman. Well, a Tuareg trader or an Amazonian hunter would likely be just as useless on a boat in the middle of the ocean. We are not defined by what we can’t do, but by what we cando.

    The only true idiots are those who think that they can do when they quite obviously can’t – economists and IYISI alike.

  35. One Two 36

    Humanity has allowed itself to be tied into little knots from which it’s unlikely to Houdini out of

    Then the ‘reasons and rational’ are postulated over as if the knots are some how natural phenomena?

    The knots are human constructs, every single one of them

    Humanity won’t ‘intelligence’ its way out of the mess

    It will require the innate human emotive qualities to succeed

  36. Halfcrown 37

    An excellent post Colonial. Have enjoyed it and some of the very well thought out responses.

  37. gsays 38

    Cheers for a thought provoking post.

    Just a coincidence that it is on the 8th anniversaryof Lehman brothers bankruptcy?

    Bankers,regulators, politicians and investors, all too clever than the rest of us.

    Also with the bail outs and quantative easing that has gone on since, the bankers no longer have ‘skin in the game’.

  38. Pat 39

    It is a problem accentuated by the increasing predilection to hire “bright young things”, dismiss experience as irrelevant in the modern era of rapid change and the politicisation of the public service whereby leadership is appointed to suit the governing party and the staff frequently on short term contract…..to name but a few.

    It has a name……Institutional memory, and the reality is, some things never change and there is no substitute for experience.

    http://www.bbc.com/news/business-35821782

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