'Hottest thinker in the world' joins faculty

Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Distinguished Professor of Risk Engineering

According to The London Times, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, the Polytechnic Institute of NYU’s new distinguished professor of risk engineering, is “the hottest thinker in the world.”

“When [Mr. Taleb] said the world’s economy was heading for disaster, he was scorned. Now traders, economists, even NASA, are clamouring to hear him speak,” said the paper.

Mr. Taleb spent twenty years as a derivatives trader and “quant” — a quantitative analyst who applies sophisticated math to risk management — before starting a full-time career as a scholar of risk and applied probability. He is known for a “multidisciplinary but no-nonsense” approach to model error and the role of high-impact rare events, or “black swans,” which he wrote about in The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, the highest selling essay in the world in 2007 and 2008.

“I have a program of trying to put decision making under uncertainty on robust footing and help with true and honest risk management concepts — understanding the limits of what tools we have. NYU-Poly is a great platform for that,” explained Mr. Taleb of why he chose to teach here.

The opportunity to be part of an engineering and technology school rather than one geared towards the social sciences also appeals to Mr. Taleb whose next book, Tinkering, will show that “science is vastly more the result of technology than the reverse — contrary to common beliefs.”

Taleb is currently a visiting professor at the London Business School and co-director of the Decision Science Laboratory focusing on errors in the estimation of remote events. He was the dean's professor in the Sciences of Uncertainty at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and, for eight years, taught derivatives model errors at the Courant Institute of New York University.

Before becoming a full-time researcher with a focus on publishing in scholarly journals, Mr. Taleb held senior derivatives positions with major institutions: Credit Suisse First Boston, UBS, BNP-Paribas, Indosuez (now Calyon), Bankers Trust (now Deutsche Bank). He also worked as an independent pit trader in the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, and ran his own derivatives firm for six years. Mr. Taleb has also advised central banks and various government agencies on security, model risk, and risk management. He currently is a principal and member of the board of several institutions.

Taleb holds an MBA from the Wharton School and a Ph.D. from the University of Paris. In addition to The Black Swan, he is the author of another essay on randomness, Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets (2001, 2005), and a technical clinical book on derivatives, Dynamic Hedging: Managing Vanilla and Exotic Options (1997).

Mr. Taleb’s books have more than 1.4 million copies and fifty-one translations in print. He had two of the top ten research papers on Social Science Research Network for 2008. His honors include, among others, Power 30 Wall Street Journal/Smart Money (2007), Frost & Sullivan Visionary of the Year (2008) and Derivatives Strategy Hall of Fame (2000).