After the crazy events had happened, people acted as if they were predictable

Sunday, August 29th, 2021

I recently read William Shirer‘s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, which I had been vaguely aware of and interested in since childhood, but Nassim Nicholas Taleb got me interested in Shirer’s Berlin Diary a couple decades back, when he made this point in his own first book, Fooled by Randomness:

I was brought up in Lebanon, where we always recreate memories, revise experiences and read more into them than necessary. During the war there, when I was 15, I wanted to be a philosopher. While I was hiding in basements I read William Shirer’s Berlin Diary: The journal of a foreign correspondent 1934 to 1941. It made me realise three things about the people around me: that they were always predicting (wrongly) that the war was going to be “solved” soon; that they seemed confident about their estimates for the future even though crazy events were happening all the time; and that after the crazy events had happened, people acted as if they were predictable. I realised that you can find an infinity of narratives to fit your data.

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