Book notes
Skin in the Game

Skin in the Game by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Read in January 2019

"You will never fully convince someone that he is wrong; only reality can."

Book 1: Introduction


Politicans and people like them, who talks a lot and doesn’t really affected by their actions. Their three flaws:

  • they think in statics not dynamics,
  • they think in low, not high, dimensions,
  • they think in terms of actions, never interactions.

We saw that interventionistas don’t learn because they are not the victims of their mistakes.

Systems Learn by Removing

  • You will never fully convince someone that he is wrong; only reality can.
  • Reality doesn’t care about winning arguments, survival is what matters.
  • The curse of modernity is that we are increasingly populated by a class of people who are better at explaining than understanding.

Silver Beats Gold

  • The Golden Rule wants you to Treat others the way you would like them to treat you.
  • The more robust Silver Rule says Do not treat others the way you would not like them to treat you.
  • First, it tells you to mind your own business and not decide what is “good” for others. We know with much more clarity what is bad than what is good.
  • There is a difference between a charlatan and a genuinely skilled member of society, say that between a macrobullshitter political “scientist” and a plumber, or between a journalist and a mafia made man. The doer wins by doing, not convincing.

Soul in the Game

Honor implies that there are some actions you would categorically never do, regardless of the material rewards.

Book 2: A First Look at Agency

There are two types of “talking one’s book.” One consists of buying a stock because you like it, then commenting on it (and disclosing such ownership)—the most reliable advocate for a product is its user.fn6 Another is buying a stock so you can advertise the qualities of the company, then selling it, benefiting from the trumpeting—this is called market manipulation, and it is certainly a conflict of interest.

Book 3: That Greatest Asymmetry

  • Minorities can affect majority!
  • You start eating vegan and your family eats vegan then local markets start selling vegan and suddenly we are all vegan.
  • But some of the flexible voters can also vote for that extreme faction, just as non-kosher people can eat kosher.
  • The market is like a large movie theater with a small door. and the best way to detect a sucker is to see if his focus is on the size of the theater rather than that of the door.

Book 4: Wolves Among Dogs

How to Legally Own Another Person

  • Freelance pilot story, you are planning a trip to Bavaria from somewhere for october fest but your pilot gets another offer and sells you out.
  • Lovers of paychecks are lazy, but they would never let you down at times like these.
  • The best slave is someone you overpay and who knows it, terrified of losing his status.

The Skin of Others in Your Game

Intellectual and ethical freedom requires the absence of the skin of others in one’s game, which is why the free are so rare. I cannot possibly imagine the activist Ralph Nader, when he was the target of large motor companies, raising a family with 2 kids and a dog.

Book 5: Being Alive Means Taking Risks

The Intellectual Yet Idiot

  • The IYI pathologies others for doing things he doesn’t understand without ever realizing it is his understanding that may be limited.
  • The IYI subscribes to The New Yorker, a journal designed so philistines can learn to fake a conversation about evolution, neurosomething, cognitive biases, and quantum mechanics.


Aristotle, in his Rhetoric, postulated that envy is something you are more likely to encounter in your own kin: lower classes are more likely to experience envy toward their cousins or the middle class than toward the very rich. And the expression Nobody is a prophet in his own land, making envy a geographical thing (mistakenly thought to originate with Jesus), originates from that passage in the Rhetoric. Aristotle himself was building on Hesiod: cobbler envies cobbler, carpenter envies carpenter. Later, Jean de La Bruyère wrote that jealousy is to be found within the same art, talent, and condition.

Book 6: Deeper into Agency

  • Surgeons Should Not Look Like Surgeons: Good looking surgeon vs butcher.
  • People can only be social friends if they don’t try to upstage or outsmart one another.