The Bed of Procrustes by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
The Bed of Procrustes is a short book consisting of quotes by Taleb. Unlike his other books, this book is mostly a collection of quotes. Procrustes used to stretch/amputate his guests who won’t fit on his bed. Similarly, when our minds need to reduce information, we are more likely to try to squeeze a phenomenon into the Procrustean bed of a crisp and known category (amputating the unknown), rather than suspend categorization, and make it tangible. That’s the central theme of this book.
- Pharmaceutical companies are better at inventing diseases that match existing drugs, rather than inventing drugs to match existing diseases.
- Restaurants get you in with food to sell you liquor; religions get you in with belief to sell you rules (e.g., avoid debt)
- The three most harmful addictions are heroin, carbohydrates, and a monthly salary.
- They will envy you for your success, for your wealth, for your intelligence, for your looks, for your status—but rarely for your wisdom.
- We call narcissistic those individuals who behave as if they were the central residents of the world; those who do exactly the same in a set of two we call lovers or, better, “blessed by love.”
- Decline starts with the replacement of dreams with memories and ends with the replacement of memories with other memories.
- True humility is when you can surprise yourself more than others; the rest is either shyness or good marketing.
- Men destroy each other during the war; themselves during peacetime.
- Nation-states like war; city-states like commerce; families like stability; and individuals like entertainment.
- Education makes the wise slightly wiser, but it makes the fool vastly more dangerous.
- Skills that transfer: street fights, off-path hiking, seduction, broad erudition.
Skills that don’t: school, games, sports, laboratory—what’s reduced and organize
- Writers are remembered for their best work, politicians for their worst mistakes and businessmen are almost never remembered.
- Regular minds find similarities in stories (and situations); finer minds detect differences.
- The fool views himself as more unique and others more generic; the wise views himself as more generic and others more unique.
- Wit seduces by signaling intelligence without nerdiness.
- In a crowd of a hundred, 50 percent of the wealth, 90 percent of the imagination, and 100 percent of the intellectual courage will reside in a single person—not necessarily the same one.
- Robust is when you care more about the few who like your work than the multitude who dislike it (artists); fragile is when you care more about the few who dislike your work than the multitude who like it (politicians).
- One of the failures of “scientific approximation” in the nonlinear domain comes from the inconvenient fact that the average of expectations is different from the expectation of averages.*
- In poor countries, officials receive explicit bribes; in D.C. they get the sophisticated implicit, unspoken promise to work for large corporations.
- In the past, only some of the males, but all the females were able to procreate. Equality is more natural for females.
- Our minds need to reduce information, we are more likely to try to squeeze a phenomenon into the Procrustean bed of a crisp and known category (amputating the unknown), rather than suspend categorization, and make it tangible
- Many philistines reduce my ideas to opposition to technology when in fact I am opposing the naïve blindness to its side effects—the fragility criterion. I’d rather be unconditional about ethics and conditional about technology than the reverse.
- Social media are severely antisocial, health foods are empirically unhealthy, knowledge workers are very ignorant, and social sciences aren’t scientific at all.
- The costs of specialization: architects build to impress other architects; models are thin to impress other models; academics write to impress other academics; filmmakers try to impress other filmmakers; painters impress art dealers, but authors who write to impress book editors tend to fail.
6 Replies to “The Bed of Procrustes by Nassim Nicholas Taleb”
Wow Wow awow😅💐🙏thanks for writing such crisp summaries. Can you pls do one on the rules of investing ..maybe summarise a textbook concepts o. Investing ?
Thanks Rajiv, I have written summaries of quite a few investing books. Do you have a particular one in your mind?
This is so awesome work, Ashish! Liked so many, loved #7, #14, #8.
Thanks Sunil, I’m glad that you liked it.
Psychology of Money could be an ideal one
Thanks for the nice suggestion.
I already read it though.
Here’s the summary – https://ashishb.net/book-summary/book-summary-the-psychology-of-money-by-morgan-housel/