How Not To Be a Turkey

December 20, 2012
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“A turkey is fed for a thousand days by a butcher; every day confirms to its staff of analysts that butchers love turkeys “with increased statistical confidence.” The butcher will keep feeding the turkey until a few days before Thanksgiving. Then comes that day when it is really not a very good idea to be a turkey. So with the butcher surprising it, the turkey will have a revision of belief — right when its confidence in the statement that¬†the butcher loves turkeys is maximal and “it is very quiet” and soothingly predictable in the life of the turkey. This example builds on an adaptation of a metaphor by Bertrand Russell. The key here is that such a surprise will be a Black Swan event; but just for the turkey, not for the butcher.

“We can also see from the turkey story the mother of all harmful mistakes: mistaking absence of evidence (of harm) for evidence of absence, a mistake that we will see tends to prevail in intellectual circles and one that is grounded in the social sciences.

“So our mission in life becomes simply “how not to be a turkey,” or, if possible, how to be a turkey in reverse — antifragile, that is. “Not being a turkey” starts with figuring out the difference between true and manufactured stability.”

- Nassim Taleb, Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder

JS Comment: 

How does one avoid being the turkey in markets? What platitudes and falsehoods do market turkeys embrace?

In methodology terms, what are some hallmark differences between true and manufactured stability?

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