The Unbearable lightness of Being

Culture is perishing in overproduction, in an avalanche of words, in the madness of quantity. That’s why one banned book in your former country means infinitely more than the billions of words spewed out by our universities.”

criminal regimes were made not by criminals but by enthusiasts convinced they had discovered the only road to paradise. They defended that road so valiantly that they were forced to execute many people. Later it became clear that there was no paradise, that the enthusiasts were therefore murderers.

When you sit face to face with someone who is pleasant, respectful, and polite, you have a hard time reminding yourself that nothing he says is true, that nothing is sincere.

What then should he have done? Sign or not?
Another way of formulating the question is, Is it better to shout and thereby hasten the end, or to keep silent and gain thereby a slower death?

whenever a single political movement corners power, we find ourselves in the realm of totalitarian kitsch.
When I say “totalitarian,” what I mean is that everything that infringes on kitsch must be banished for life: every display of individualism (because a deviation from the collective is a spit in the eye of the smiling brotherhood); every doubt (because anyone who starts doubting details will end by doubting life itself); all irony (because in the realm of kitsch everything must be taken quite seriously);

The difference between the university graduate and the autodidact lies not so much in the extent of knowledge as in the extent of vitality and self-confidence.

The people Tomas met in the streets were different. Half of his friends had emigrated, and half of the half that remained had died.

But many also died without being directly subjected to persecution; the hopelessness pervading the entire country penetrated the soul to the body, shattering the latter.

His true goal was not to free the prisoners; it was to show that people without fear still exist. That, too, was playacting. But he had no other possibility. His choice was not between playacting and action. His choice was between playacting and no action at all. There are situations in which people are condemned to playact. Their struggle with mute power (the mute power across the river, a police transmogrified into mute microphones in the wall) is the struggle of a theater company that has attacked an army.

We all need someone to look at us. We can be divided into four categories according to the kind of look we wish to live under.
The first category longs for the look of an infinite number of anonymous eyes, in other words, for the look of the public.

The second category is made up of people who have a vital need to be looked at by many known eyes.
Then there is the third category, the category of people who need to be constantly before the eyes of the person they love.

And finally there is the fourth category, the rarest, the category of people who live in the imaginary eyes of those who are not present.

political movements rest not so much on rational attitudes as on the fantasies, images, words, and archetypes that come together to make up this or that political kitsch.

وَلَوْ يُعَجِّلُ اللَّهُ لِلنَّاسِ الشَّرَّ اسْتِعْجَالَهُم بِالْخَيْرِ لَقُضِيَ إِلَيْهِمْ أَجَلُهُمْ فَنَذَرُ الَّذِينَ لاَ يَرْجُونَ لِقَاءَنَا فِي طُغْيَانِهِمْ يَعْمَهُونَ

وَإِذَا مَسَّ الإِنسَانَ الضُّرُّ دَعَانَا لِجَنبِهِ أَوْ قَاعِدًا أَوْ قَائِمًا فَلَمَّا كَشَفْنَا عَنْهُ ضُرَّهُ مَرَّ كَأَن لَّمْ يَدْعُنَا إِلَى ضُرٍّ مَّسَّهُ كَذَلِكَ زُيِّنَ لِلْمُسْرِفِينَ مَا كَانُواْ يَعْمَلُونَ

صدق الله العظيم

من سورة يونس

Quotes from “The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable”

a very nice read

I heard about it from 2 different trainers, one of them was giving us a quick course on mind mapping and the other about scenario building. So for a long time it was on my list and I finally finished it.

It can fool you as an easy read, and it is to some extent, but it has a problem of going in circles around the same idea for a long time. Nevertheless, I was rewarded every now and then with a brilliant idea, so it was ok at the end of the day.

Here are some of the words I liked:

“You need a story to displace a story. Metaphors and stories are far more potent (alas) than ideas; they are also easier to remember and more fun to read. If I have to go after what I call the narrative disciplines, my best tool is a narrative.
Ideas come and go, stories stay.”

“I noticed that very intelligent and informed persons were at no advantage over cabdrivers in their predictions, but there was a crucial difference. Cabdrivers did not believe that they understood as much as learned people—really, they were not the experts and they knew it.”

“awareness of a problem does not mean much—particularly when you have special interests and self-serving institutions in play.”

“Now, there are other themes arising from our blindness to the Black Swan:

a. We focus on preselected segments of the seen and generalize from it to the unseen: the error of confirmation.
b. We fool ourselves with stories that cater to our Platonic thirst for distinct patterns: the narrative fallacy.
c. We behave as if the Black Swan does not exist: human nature is not programmed for Black Swans.
d. What we see is not necessarily all that is there. History hides Black Swans from us and gives us a mistaken idea about the odds of these events: this is the distortion of silent evidence.
e. We “tunnel”: that is, we focus on a few well-defined sources of uncertainty, on too specific a list of Black Swans (at the expense of the others that do not easily come to mind).”

“The narrative fallacy addresses our limited ability to look at sequences of facts without weaving an explanation into them, or, equivalently, forcing a logical link, an arrow of relationship, upon them. Explanations bind facts together. They make them all the more easily remembered; they help them make more sense. Where this propensity can go wrong is when it increases our impression of understanding.”

“Our propensity to impose meaning and concepts blocks our awareness of the details making up the concept. H”

“The first problem is that information is costly to obtain.
The second problem is that information is also costly to store—like real estate in New York. The more orderly, less random, patterned, and narratized a series of words or symbols, the easier it is to store that series in one’s mind or jot it down in a book so your grandchildren can read it someday.”

“A novel, a story, a myth, or a tale, all have the same function: they spare us from the complexity of the world and shield us from its randomness”

“For me, one such antilogic came with the discovery—thanks to the literature on cognition—that, counter to what everyone believes, not theorizing is an act—that theorizing can correspond to the absence of willed activity, the “default” option. It takes considerable effort to see facts (and remember them) while withholding judgment and resisting explanations.”