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On skin in the game

I finished reading Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder a few weeks ago.

Taleb is well-known as the author of The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, about rare and unpredictable outlier events.

A number of people have labelled COVID-19 a black swan, something Taleb himself has refuted.

The pandemic was wholly predictable—he, like Bill Gates, Laurie Garrett, and others, had predicted it—a white swan if ever there was one. “We issued our warning that, effectively, you should kill it in the egg,” Taleb told Bloomberg. Governments “did not want to spend pennies in January; now they are going to spend trillions.”

Bernard Avishai in The New Yorker The Pandemic Isn’t a Black Swan but a Portent of a More Fragile Global System 21 April 2020

This global disaster was predicted and predictable and yet the UK is still second in the world for deaths.

Taleb is also well known for writing about ‘skin in the game’.

As everyone in England waits to hear what the government’s latest lockdown position will be, it strikes me that people with skin in the game wouldn’t be so keen to open up the country once more. If decision makers were faced with riding the Tube at 20% of its usual capacity (and buses at 15%), would they really be so hasty?

Those in power will enjoy all of the upside and suffer very little of the downside as the ‘economy reopens’.

If you’re in a position of influence and making decisions on people’s lives right now I really hope for everyone’s sake that you have skin in the game. If you’re travelling into work in an Uber and your staff are taking the bus ask yourself whether you really have no other choice.