Monday, April 20, 2009

"The Black Swan", Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Platonicity, is our tendency to mistake the map for territory, to focus on pure and well-defined "forms", whether objects, like triangles, or social notions, like utopias, even nationalities. When these ideas and crisp constructs inhabit our minds, we privilege them over other less elegant objects, those messier and less tractable structures. Platonicity is what makes us think that we understand more than we actually do.


Journalists assign the same importance to the same sets of circumstances and cut reality into the same categories - once again the manifestation of Platonicity, the desire to cut reality into crisp shapes... Categorizing is necessary for humans, but it becomes pathological when the category is seen as definitive, preventing people from considering fuzziness of boundaries, let alone revisting their categories. Contagion was the culprit.


Categorization always produces reduction in true complexity. It is a manifestation of the Black Swan generator, that unshakable Platonicity. Any reduction in the world around us can have explosive consequences since it rules out some sources of uncertainity; it drives us to a misunderstanding of the fabric of the world.

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