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N. N. Taleb 在AUB* 畢業典禮的演講(翻譯)

(2017-08-20 04:48:58) 下一個

[譯者:我沒翻譯有些人名,地名,和食物。翻了反而令人費解。在互聯網時代,把Jesuit翻譯成“耶穌會”,Stoics翻成“斯多葛“,Phoenician 翻成腓尼基, 等等,感覺滑稽。如果當年羅馬將軍Scipio和Carthage統Hannibal可以用希臘語交談,我們網上查個字典或百科全書算個什麽事呢?重要的詞有星號標記,在文後有解釋。]

 

親愛的畢業生們, 

這是我第一次參加畢業典禮(我沒參加我自己的)。我自己還沒有成功的感覺(這不是玩虛的),還得想想怎麽給你們講成功。我這樣定義成功:每天晚上,在鏡子麵前,想一想你有沒有使18或20歲的你失望。從這個年紀開始,人們就開始被生活腐蝕,走向墮落了。他或她是唯一的裁判。而不是你的名譽,財富,地位,或你的勳章。如果你不感到羞愧,你就是成功的。所有其他的定義都是時代的產品,fragile** 的產品。

古希臘人對成功的定義是像英雄一樣死去。但是既然我們活在一個不那麽尚武的世界,即使是在黎巴嫩,我們可以把成功的定義修改成為了集體的利益而戰鬥(集體可大可小,你定):隻要你所做的不都是為你自己。秘密團夥常常有榮譽準則:你為自己做一些事,為其他成員做一些事。對於他們,美德和勇氣是不可分割的。比如說做不招人待見的事的勇氣。為了他人的利益承擔風險,不一定是為了全人類。可以是幫助類似“我的貝魯特”這個小組織或地方政府。越小越不抽象越好。

要成功就不能fragile。我見過億萬富翁害怕記者,富人由於他的兄弟暴發而沮喪,諾貝爾獎獲得者害怕網上的評論。爬得越高,摔得越慘。幾乎所有我見過的人,外在的成功都帶來內在的脆弱化和不安全感。最糟的是那些“前某某”,有著四頁長的簡曆的人。他們在職時習慣了被逢迎,離開公職後,發現自己被拋棄了:像是一天晚上回到家發現有人把房子清空了。

但是自尊是robust**的--這就是Stoic學派(恰巧是一個Phoenician運動)的方法。(如果有人問Stoics是誰,我會說是一些有態度問題的佛教徒。想象一下黎巴嫩的佛教徒什麽樣。)在我們村,我見過那些為屬於當地族群而驕傲的robust的人們;他們自豪地入夢高興地起床。那些後蘇聯時代轉型艱難時期的俄羅斯數學家們為每月二百美元的工資自豪。他們做著隻有二十多個人能欣賞的工作,認為展示或接受獎品是軟弱和對自己的貢獻缺乏信心的表現。另外,不管你信不信,有些富人是robust的。你隻是沒聽說過他們因為他們不是社會名人。他們就住在你的隔壁,他們喝Arak baladi(一種西亞民間的傳統高度酒),不喝 Veuve Cliquot(一種法國香檳)

現在談談我的過去。別告訴別人,但你想象的那些通過深刻的哲學思考而得的東西都被裝點了。它們都來自一個不可根除的賭性:想象一下一個裝扮成高級牧師的賭徒。人們不願意相信: 我的教育來自交易和冒險。學校教育也幫了點忙。

我很幸運有一個經典地中海或中世紀歐洲而非現代公民的背景。我出生在一個圖書館中。我的父母擁有一個圖書館並在Bab Ed Driss 的Antoine圖書館有一個賬號。他們買了看不過來的書,所以很高興有人替他們讀。另外,我父親認識黎巴嫩所有的博學的人,尤其是曆史學家。因此我們常常和Jesuit牧師們共進晚餐。因為他們的博學多才,他們成了我唯一的榜樣:教育於我就是和教授們吃飯並向他們發問。因此至今我一直更看重博學而非聰明。起初,我想成為一個作者和哲學家; 一個人得讀上成噸的書--如果你所學僅限於黎巴嫩學士,你就沒有優勢。所以我大多數時間都逃課,並且,從十四歲,開始如饑似渴地閱讀。後來,我發現我不能集中精力在別人強加給我的科目上。我把學曆和學校,閱讀和教育分了開來。

我茫無目的地混了一段時間。我寫的《偉大的黎巴嫩小說》停在了第八頁直到我23歲(每年寫一頁)。然後, 在沃頓商學院學習時, 有一天我發現了概率論並對它著迷了。但是,如前所述,這並非來源於對高深的哲學或科學渴求,隻是因為在市場上賭博的快感。一個朋友給我講了複雜金融衍生品。我決定在這裏開創我的職業。這一職業是交易和複雜性的組合。這一領域是新興的。但是它在數學上非常非常複雜。

貪婪和恐懼是我的老師。我就像那些上了癮的資質平庸的人們一樣。他們總能發明一些神奇的方法得到毒品。每當關乎金錢,我的第二大腦就突然出現了,那些定理就變得有意思了。當你後麵著火時,你會比在比賽中跑得都快。然後沒實際行動的時候我就回歸平庸。另外,作為交易員,我們的數學是針對我們的問題的,就像手套。不像是做學問的,為理論找應用。對實際問題應用數學完全是另一回事;意味著在寫等式之前對問題有一個深入的理解。所以我發現12年量化金融領域工作後拿一個博士比拿簡單的學位容易得多得多。

在工作期間我發現經濟學家和社會科學家幾乎總是對問題應用錯誤的數學,這就是後來《黑天鵝》的論調。他們的統計工具不僅是錯,而且錯得離譜--直到今天同樣如此。他們的方法低估了“尾部事件”,那些不常見但非常有影響的事件。他們的傲慢使他們拒絕接受這個事實。這一發現使我在我二十幾歲,1987市場崩盤後,取得了經濟獨立。所以我感覺我對怎樣應用概率,怎樣思考和控製不確定性能發表一些看法。概率論是哲學和科學的邏輯;它觸及許多科目:神學,哲學,心理學,科學,和一般的風險工程--湊巧的是,概率論是八世紀(當時稱作3elm el musadafat)在地中海東部誕生的,用來解密消息。所以過去的三十年裏,我瀏覽不同的科目,同時搔擾別人,搞過分自重的人們的惡作劇。你拿一篇醫學文章,問一個非常自以為是的科學家怎樣解釋p-值;你會嚇著作者。

我的第二個好運來自2008經濟危機。我感到報了仇,冒了風險,賺了一筆。但是跟著我就出名了。我發現我憎恨出名,名人,魚子醬,香檳,複雜的食物,昂貴的葡萄酒和評酒師。我喜歡mezze和本地產的Arak baladi,包括帶墨汁的墨鬥魚(sabbidej),不多也不少。富人們的喜好大多是由那些為從他們身上賺錢的係統定的。我自己的喜好在一個和無聊的富人們吃了一頓米其林3星晚餐後變得非常明確:我到尼克的比薩店點了一角$6.95的比薩餅。那次以後,我再也沒有吃過米其林或其他有著複雜名字的食物。我尤其對哪些喜歡紮名人堆兒的人(IAND:International Association of Name-Droppers)過敏。因此,一年的閃光燈下的生活後,我回到了我的圖書館(Amioun或紐約),開始了新工作:做技術活兒的研究員。當我讀自己的簡曆時,我總覺得那是另外一個人的:它描述了我做過的而不是我正在和希望做的。

我在敘述我的一生。提供建議的時候我總是很猶豫,因為我得到的每一個重大的建議最後都證明是錯的;我非常高興沒有聽從它們。人們告訴我要專注,我從沒專注過。人們告訴我不要拖拉,《黑天鵝》拖了20年。它賣了3百萬冊。人們勸我別在書中加入虛構人物,我仍虛構了Nero Tulip和胖Tony因為不然我會覺得枯燥。人們告訴我不要侮辱紐約時報和華爾街日報,我越侮辱,它們對我越好,更想發表我的觀點。人們告訴我背痛就不要舉重,我迷上了舉重,從那以後,沒有了背痛。

如果我不得不重新活一次,我會比以前更加固執和不妥協。一個人不應做任何不負責的事。如果你給人出主意,你就要承擔損失的風險。這是“白銀法則”的延伸。下麵我教你們幾招:

- 不要讀報紙,或以任何形式追蹤新聞。

- 如果一件事沒道理,你就要大聲地說出來。你會受小的損失,但你會變得Anti-fragile**--長遠來看人們會信任你。我沒出名

  時,有一次在彭博(Bloomberg)的采訪中途撂了挑子,因為采訪記者胡說八道。三年以後,彭博雜誌為我寫了封麵報道。

  這個星球上的所有經濟學家都痛恨我(當然,AUB的除外)。我經曆了兩次名譽抹黑運動,得到了自漢尼拔(Hannibal)以來最

  勇敢的黎巴嫩人,Ralph Nader, 的鼓勵。我冒著風險揭露孟山都(Monsanto)這樣邪惡的大公司,並因此到了名譽上的攻擊。

- 更尊敬門衛而非老板。

- 如果一件事是枯燥的,避免它--除了交稅和探望嶽父母。為什麽?因為你的生理是最好的歪理探測器;用它來指導你的人生。

 

 

我的書中還有很多類似的規則。當下我就用一句格言作結尾。以下幾條是萬萬不行的:

    沒有力量的肌肉(有肌肉卻沒力量),

    沒有信任的友誼,

    沒有風險地(發表)觀點,

    沒有美感的改變,

    沒有價值觀的年紀,

    沒有營養的食物,

    沒有公平感的權力,

    沒有嚴格考證的事實,

    沒有博學的學位,

    沒有堅韌的好戰,

    沒有文明的進步,

    沒有深度的複雜,

    沒有內容的流利,和最重要的,

    不能寬容的宗教。

 

 

*  AUB是American University of Beruit的縮寫。直譯是貝魯特美國大學。

** 我沒有翻譯fragile, robust和anti-fragile這三個詞。《Anti-fragile》一書解釋了它們之間的關係。

   簡單地說,fragile就是字典意義:脆弱。robust是堅強/固。我見過將robustness翻譯成“魯棒性”的。但

   和通常的理解不同,Taleb認為robust不是fragile的反義詞。Anti-fragile才是。它指的是小的打擊和挫

   折使人/事物變得更堅強--就像尼采說的:“那些殺不死我們的使我們更強壯。“

   

 

 

Commencement Address

Nassim Taleb

May 27, 2016

 

Dear graduating students,

 

This is the first commencement I have ever attended (I did not attend my own

commencement). Further, I have to figure out how (sic) lecture you on success

when I do not feel succesful yet--and it is not a false modesty. For I have a

single definition of success: you look in the mirror every evening, and wonder

if you disappoint the person you were at 18 or 20, right before the age when

people start getting corrupted by life. Let him or her be the only judge; not

your reputation, not your wealth, not your standing in the community, not the

decorations on your lapel. If you do not feel ashamed, you are successful. All

other definitions of success are modern constructions; fragile modern

constructions.

 

The Ancient Greeks' main definition of sucess was to have had a heroic death.

But as we live in a less martial world, even in Lebanon, we can adapt our

definition of success as having taken a heroic route for the benefits of the

collective, as narrowly or broadly defined collective as you wish. So long as

all you do is not all for you: secret societies used to have a rule for uomo

d'onore: you do something for yourself and something for your other members. And

virtue is inseparable from courage. Life the courage to do something unpopular.

Take risks for the benefit of others; it doesn't have to be humanity, it can be

helping say Beirut Madinati or the local municipality. The more micro, the less

abstract, the better.

 

Success requires absence of fragility. I've seen billionaires terrified of

journalists, wealthy people who felt crushed because their brother in law got

very rich, academics with Nobel who were scared of comments on the web. The

higher you go, the worse the fall. For almost all people I've met, external

success came with increased fragility and a heightened state of insecurity. The

worst are those "former something" types with 4 page CVs who, after leaving

office, and addicted to the attention of servile bureaucrats, find themselves

discarded: as if you went home one evening to discover that someone suddenly

emptied your house of all its furniture.

 

But self-respect is robust--that's the approach of the Stoic school, which

incidentally was a Phoenician movement. (If someone wonders who are the Stoics

I'd say Buddhists with an attitude problem, imagine someone both very Lebanese

and Buddhist). I've seen robust people in my village Amioun who were proud of

being local citizens involved in their tribe; they go to bed proud and wake up

happy. Or Russian mathematicians who, during the difficult post-Soviet

transition period, were proud of making $200 a month and do work that is

appreciated by twenty people--and considered that showing one's decorations--or

accepting awards--were a sign of weakness and lack of confidence in one's

contributions. And, believe it or not, some wealthy people are robust--but you

just don't hear about them because they are not socialites, live next door, and

drink Arak baladi not Veuve Cliquot.

 

Now a bit of my own history. Don't tell anyone, but all the stuff you think

comes from deep philosophical reflection is dressed up: it all comes from an

ineradicable gambling instinct--just imagine a compulsive gambler playing high

priest. People don't like to believe it: my education came from trading and risk

taking with some help from school.

 

I was lucky to have a background closer to that of a classical Mediterranean or

a Medieval European than a modern citizen. For I was born in a library--my

parents had an account at Librarie Antoine in Bab Ed Driss and a big library.

They bought more books than they could read so they were happy someone was

reading the books for them. Also my father knew every erudite person in Lebanon,

particularly historians. So we often had Jesuit priests at dinner and because of

their multidisciplinary erudition they were the only role models: my idea of

education is to have professors just to eat with them and ask them questions. So

I valued erudition over intelligence--and still do. I initially wanted to be a

writer and philosopher; one needs to read tons of books for that--you had no

edge if your knoweldge was limited to the Lebanese Baccalaureat program. So I

skipped school most days and, starting at age 14, started reading voraciously.

Later I discovered an inability to concentrate on subjects others imposed on me.

I separated school for credentials and reading for one's edification.

 

I drifted a bit with no focus, and remained on page 8 of the Great Lebanese

Novel until the age of 23 (my novel was advancing one page per annum). Then I

got a break on the day when at Wharton I accidentally discovered probability

theory and became obsessed with it. But as I said it did not come from lofty

philosophizing and scientific hunger, only from the thrills and hormonal flush

one gets while gambling in the markets. A friend told me about complex financial

derivatives and I decided to make a career in them. It was a combination of

trading and complex mathematics. The field was new and uncharted. But they were

very, very difficult mathematically.

 

Greed, and fear are teachers. I was like people with addictions who have a below

average intelligence but were capable of the most ingenious tricks to procure

their drugs. When there was money on the line, suddenly a second brain in me

manifested itself and these theorems became interesting. When there is fire, you

will run faster than in any competition. Then I became dumb again when there was

no real action. Furthermore, as a trader the mathematics we used was adapted to

our problem, like a glove, unlike academics with a theory looking for some

application. Applying math to practical problems was another business

altogether; it meant a deep understanding of the problem before putting the

equations on it. So I found getting a doctorate after 12 years in quantitative

finance much, much easier than getting simpler degrees.

 

I discovered along the way that the economists and social scientists were almost

always applying the wrong math to the problems, what became later the theme of

The Black Swan. Their statistical tools were not just wrong, they were

outrageously wrong--they still are. Their methods underestimated "tail events",

those rare but consequential jumps. They were too arrogant to accept it. This

discovery allowed me to achieve financial independence in my twenties, after the

crash of 1987. So I felt I had something to say in the way we used probability,

and how we think about, and manage uncertainty. Probability is the logic of

science and philosophy; it touches on many subjects: theology, philosophy,

psychology, science, and the more undane risk engineering--incidentally

probability was born in the Levant in the 8th Century as 3elm el musadafat, used

to decrypt messages. So the past thirty years for me have been flaneuring across

subjects, bothering people along the way, pulling pranks on people who take

themselves seriously. You take a medical paper and ask some scientist full of

himself how he interprets the "p-value"; the author will be terrorized.

 

The second break came to me when the crisis of 2008 happened and felt vindicated

and made another bundle putting my neck on the line. But fame came with the

crisis and I discovered that I hated fame, famous people, caviar, champagne,

complicated food, expensive wine and, mostly wine commentators. I like mezze

with local Arak baladi, including squid in its ink (sabbidej), no less no more,

and wealthy people tend to have their preferences dictated by a system meant to

milk them. My own preferences became obvious to me when after a dinner in a

Michelin 3 stars with stuffy and boring rich people, I stopped by Nick's pizza

for a $6.95 slice and I haven't had a Michelin meal since, or anything with

complex names. I am particularly allergic to people who like themselves to be

surrounded by famous people, the IAND (International Association of Name

Droppers). So, after about a year in the limelight I went back to the seclusion

of my library (in Amioun or near NY), and started a new career as a researcher

doing technical work. When I read my bio I always feel it is that of another

person: it describes what I did not what I am doing and would like to do.

 

I am just describing my life. I hesitate to give advice because every major

single piece of advice I was given turned out to be wrong and I am glad I didn't

follow them. I was told to focus and I never did. I was told to never

procrastinate and I waited 20 years for the Black Swan and it sold 3 million

copies. I was told to avoid putting fictional characters in my books and I did

put in Nero Tulip and Fat Tony because I got bored otherwise. I was told to not

insult the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, the more I insulted them

the nicer they were to me and solicit Op-Eds. I was told to avoid lifting

weights for a back pain and became a weightlifter: never had a back problem

since.

 

If I had to relive my life I would be even more stubborn and uncompromising than

I have been. One should never do anything without skin in the game. If you give

advice, you need to be exposed to losses from it. It is an extension to the

silver rule. So I will tell you what tricks I employ.

 

- do not read the newspapers, or follow the news in any way or form. To be

  convinced, try reading last year's newspaper. It doesn't mean ignore the news;

  it means that you got from the events to the news, not the other way around.

 

- If something is nonsense, you say it and say it loud. You will be harmed a

  little but will be antifragile--in the long run people who need to trust you

  will trust you. When I was still an obscure author, I walked out of a studio

  Bloomberg Radio during an interview because the interviewer was saying nonsense.

  Three years later Bloomberg Magazine did a cover story on me.

  

  Every economist on the planet hates me (except of course those of AUB). I

  suffeed two smear campaigns, and encouraged by the most courageous Lebanese ever

  since Hannibal, Ralph Nader, I took reputational risks by exposing large evil

  corporations such as Monsanto, and suffered a smear campaign for it.

 

- Treat the doorman with a bit more respect than the big boss.

 

- If something is boring, avoid it--save taxes and vists to the mother in law.

  Why? Because your biology is the best nonsense detector; use it to navigate

  your life.

    

There are a log of such rules in my books, so for now let me finish with a

maxim. The following are no-nos:

 

Muscles without strength, friendship without trust, opinion without risk, change

without aesthetics, age without values, food without nourishment, power without

fairness, facts without rigor, degrees without erudition, militarism without

fortitude, progress without civilization, complication without depth, fluency

without content, and, formost, religion without tolerance.

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閱讀 ()評論 (6)
評論
7grizzly 回複 悄悄話 Dec 20, 2020, 再更新。
7grizzly 回複 悄悄話 Dec 1, 2020 再更新。
7grizzly 回複 悄悄話 Jun 5, 2020再更新。
7grizzly 回複 悄悄話 Nov 21, 2018更新。
7grizzly 回複 悄悄話 Yes. It's a bit of work. I had nothing better to do on the airplane;-)
Thanks for reading and I do find re-reading gives new perspectives.
I'd read newspapers but not for tracking news but for improving my English and I think that's totally legit ;-)
暖冬cool夏 回複 悄悄話 Wow, you spent a lot of time translating it. I found the English version online and read it through. It is a very interesting and provocative speech. A bit too much for me to understand now. I need to come back and re-read a couple of times. Interestingly I was reading WSJ before coming to the part " Do not read newspaper..." Haha. Have a great Sunday!
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