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Nassim Nicholas Taleb Headshot

The IMF and Our Increased Dependence on Faux-Experts

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I was in Korea last week with a collection of suit-wearing hotshots. On a panel sat Takatoshi Kato, IMF Deputy Managing Director. Before the discussion he gave us a powerpoint lecture showing the IMF projections for 2010, 2011, ..., 2014. I could not control myself and got into a state of rage. I told the audience that the next time someone from the IMF shows you projections for some dates in the future, to show us what they PROJECTED for 2008 and 2009 in 2004, 2005, ..., and 2007. They would then verify that Mr. Takatoshi and his colleagues provide a prime illustration to the "expert problem": they serve as experts while offering the scientific reliability of astrologers. Anyone relying on them is a turkey.

This allowed me to show the urgency of my idea of robustness. We cannot get rid of charlatans. My point is that we need to build a society robust to charlatanism and expert-error, one in which Mr. Takatoshi and his staff can be as incompetent as they want without endangering the general public. We need less reliance on these people and the Obama administration has been making us more dependent on the "expert problem".

Epilogue. At formal dinner, jetlagged (I was served red wine when my biological time was at 7 AM), I saw in horror that I was sitting next to... Mr Kato. He was somewhat nervous, but very polite.