Why Nassim Taleb Walks

Nassim Taleb, of Fooled by Randomness and Black Swan fame, has a new-ish essay up on his site called Why I Do All This Walking, or How Systems Become Fragile. He ponders health and fitness strategy by thinking about our ancestors. Our ancestors walked aimlessly a lot and occasionally had to sprint if we were being chased or doing the chasing. Plenty of idleness, he says, some high intensity. He questions the modern obsession with regular exercise and discusses his own effort at sporadic weight lifting sessions followed by several weeks of being totally sedentary. At the end he links it back to his larger ideas around systems theory.

The footer says “do not quote” the piece, so I won’t excerpt here, except by providing a link to the free PDF. Thanks Seth Roberts for the pointer.


At the bottom of Taleb’s homepage he posts his email address and invites readers to contact him. With some qualifications:

Concise messages are much preferable (say a maximum < 40 words) as I will not be able to read long letters. Please do not 1) send me your papers or other “interesting material” to read, 2) ask finance questions (not my specialty, 3) make me to rewrite sections of my books (I write books, not emails), 4) ask for a list of “other interesting books to read”, 5) ask me to provide career or educational advice, 6) send me passages from Tolstoy or the Ecclesiast on luck and randomness, 7) send me the list of typos in my drafts. Note that I almost always reply (but ONLY to short messages), time permitting (but once) –even to nasty emails. Finally, note that, thanks to my new keyboard, I sometimes reply in Arabic, particularly to academics. [Also please please refrain from offering to “improve” my web site].

He opens his piece on walking by noting that thanks to the “exposure” of his books he came onto theories about fitness by two authors. I imagine this happend by a reader writing in and sharing “interesting material” of the sort he says he does not want. I have never emailed Taleb, but I don’t take his qualifications seriously. It is, in fact, a very naked way to signal busyness and importance.

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