Fragilista At Work

Ryan DeLongpre
Dec 16, 2017 · 3 min read

According to Nassim Nicholas Taleb there are two categories of people: those with #SkinInTheGame (electricians, entrepreneurs, athletes, soldiers etc etc) and those whose income derives from telling everybody how to conduct their lives without suffering any consequences nor taking risks. Their technical name is “Fragilista” and you can usually find them hanging out at the most expensive cocktail bars in D.C. or on the editorial page of the New York Times.

At times, you can even find them on the Sam Harris podcast proudly defending other Fragilistas.

It’s quite ironic that they spent the first 10 minutes of the podcast accusing everybody who’s not an expert, like them of course, to be the victim of the Dunning-Kruger Effect and shortly after proclaiming Donald Trump — a multibillionaire who happens to be the most powerful man on earth — a “monster of incompetence”

Now, as far as I know, neither Sam Harris nor Tom Nichols have ever ran a business, host a tv show or run for office. Nor is there any evidence that they have ever become the most voted GOP candidate ever and then president of the United States while being outspent & out-endorsed by — who they thought was the most qualified candidate ever: HIllary Clinton. Oh, and without any practice, at age 70.

Wait, you didn’t think that the Dunning-Kruger Effect would apply to the “experts” too, did you?

And don’t you dare remind them of this little incongruence:

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One would imagine that a professor at Harvard would understand the difference between pilots and policy makers, but remember: we’re dealing with fragilistas of the highest order.

For the whole duration of the podcast both Sam and the Harvard professor conflated pilots with policy makers, accusing those who trust pilots but not policy makers to be stupid hypocrites and…. get ready…. victims of Dunning-Kruger:

“If a layperson doesn’t trust the experts he should try landing an airplane himself”

Unfortunately, for them, a crucial difference exists between pilots and policy makers: their risk profile. In fact a starker contrast cannot come to mind.

Pilots have 100% downside from their mistakes. For example: dying from a plane crash while killing their crew members and all passengers.

On the other hand, policy makers can bankrupt a country while killing almost a million of women and children in a foreign land and their worst punishment would be being invited on the Ellen Show

As I’ve postulated here, whenever you find people whose main achievement is to speak/write very well or, even worse, teach at Harvard; you are almost guaranteed to be in front of a Fragilista who will insult you for not being confused like them about pilots and policy makers.

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