Nassim Taleb on Extreme Events

Darwin College lecture in 2020 before COVID-19 set in is super interesting. Taleb walks through his notion of Mediocristan versus Extremistan (and there’s a mention of Meritocristan as = Mediocristan). The lecture is introduced by Professor Mary Fowler who gives reference to an interesting quote that goes, “Events, dear boy, events.”

This refers to something said by a past Prime Minister of the UK, Harold Macmillan who was asked about what could shift the course of his government. In 2002, writer George Will summoned that saying in the context of happenings with Enron in Houston that year.

When Harold Macmillan became Britain’s prime minister, he was asked what would determine his government’s course. He replied with Edwardian languor: “Events, dear boy, events.” As he well knew. An event–the 1956 Suez debacle–had catapulted him into 10 Downing Street. An event–the sex-and-spies Profumo scandal–would grease the skids under him in 1963.

Pesky things, events. As usual, they are in the saddle, riding mankind. They will shape this election year. The first shaping event has happened, in Houston.

—George Will in Newsweek