Friday, August 23, 2013

Nassim Taleb quotes

From Antifragile:
Squeezes are exacerbated by size. When one is large, one becomes vulnerable to some errors, particularly horrendous squeezes. The squeezes become nonlinearly costlier as size increases. 
In spite of what is studied in business schools concerning “economies of scale,” size hurts you at times of stress; it is not a good idea to be large during difficult times. Some economists have been wondering why mergers of corporations do not appear to play out. The combined unit is now much larger, hence more powerful, and according to the theories of economies of scale, it should be more “efficient.” But the numbers show, at best, no gain from such increase in size—that was already true in 1978, when Richard Roll voiced the “hubris hypothesis,” finding it irrational for companies to engage in mergers given their poor historical record. Recent data, more than three decades later, still confirm both the poor record of mergers and the same hubris as managers seem to ignore the bad economic aspect of the transaction. There appears to be something about size that is harmful to corporations. 
As with the idea of having elephants as pets, squeezes are much, much more expensive (relative to size) for large corporations. The gains from size are visible but the risks are hidden, and some concealed risks seem to bring frailties into the companies. 
Large animals, such as elephants, boa constrictors, mammoths, and other animals of size tend to become rapidly extinct. Aside from the squeeze when resources are tight, there are mechanical considerations. Large animals are more fragile to shocks than small ones—again, stone and pebbles. Jared Diamond, always ahead of others, figured out such vulnerability in a paper called “Why Cats Have Nine Lives.” If you throw a cat or a mouse from an elevation of several times their height, they will typically manage to survive. Elephants, by comparison, break limbs very easily.