Lunch with Nassim

Today, I was fortunate enough to enjoy lunch with Nassim Nicholas Taleb, his wife, and their son. (Yes, this is the author of “The Black Swan” among many other accomplishments.) It was an utterly indescribable experience. The best I can do is:

Conversing with Nassim is like conversing with a swarm of butterflies. A swarm of glittering, hyper-intelligent cyborg butterflies. Who aren’t quite sure whether to take over the Earth or migrate to another star system.

In a ninety minute lunch, here is a (possibly incomplete) alphabetical list of the topics we discussed:

  • Aerobic exercise
  • Angel investing
  • Apple laptop design
  • Aramaic mistranslations in the Bible
  • Asian Silk Road
  • Asset allocation
  • Battery chemistry
  • Best airlines to Abu Dhabi
  • Carbohydrate consumption
  • Early (1st-6th century) Christianity
  • Electric cars
  • Elon Musk and SpaceX
  • Groupon IPO
  • History of jet engines
  • Islamic fundamentalism and Lebanese society
  • Islamic tolerance/intolerance of alcohol
  • Litigation and litigators
  • Lost Legion of Rome
  • Misunderstood links between science and technology
  • NASA politics
  • Neurological damage and recovery
  • Option pricing
  • Poetry of Omar Khayyam
  • Risk clipping
  • Rocket design
  • Teaching birds how to fly
  • Undersea treasure hunting
  • Wernher von Braun

Taleb has an amazing habit of saying a sentence or two that should rightfully be the subject of an entire conversation (or university lecture)… then, before the surrounding humans have absorbed that thought, leaping to a completely different topic and doing it again. And again.

I like to characterize myself as “a mile wide and an inch deep”… I know a little bit about a lot of different things. This is a man who is a mile wide and a mile deep. I’m going to go re-read his books. Slowly.