This is the blueprint

This wonderful passage from Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities is possibly my most beloved short story. Constant, never ending growth and the sky above us, not as an untouchable ceiling, but a blueprint of our future.



Those who arrive at Thekla can see little of the city, beyond the plank fences, the sackcloth screens, the scaffolding, the metal armatures, the wooden catwalks hanging from ropes or supported by saw-horses, the ladders, the trestles. If you ask, ‘Why is Thekla’s construction taking such a long time?’ the inhabitants continue hoisting sacks, lowering leaded strings, moving long brushes up and down, as they answer, ‘So that its destruction cannot begin.’ And if asked whether they fear that, once the scaffolding is removed, the city may begin to crumble and fall to pieces, they add hastily, in a whisper, ‘Not only the city.’

If, dissatisfied with the answer, someone puts his eye to a crack in a fence, he sees cranes pulling up other cranes, scaffolding that embraces other scaffolding, beams that prop up other beams. ‘What meaning does your construction have?’ he asks. ‘What is the aim of a city under construction unless it is a city? Where is the plan you are following, the blueprint?’

‘We will show it to you as soon as the working day is over; we cannot interrupt our work now,’ they answer.

Work stops at sunset. Darkness falls over the building site. The sky is filled with stars. ‘There is the blueprint,’ they say.


Taleb’s anti-presentation on fragility heuristics

After a longer time (and not counting his short, messy Youtube videos), there is a tiny bit of new Taleb material presented at his seminar at Bank of England.

Trust it to a bank to mess up a simple thing like a video stream: you have to jump 1h:18 into the video & they didn’t shoot the slides. This doesn’t make one feel very confident in them handling complex matters 🙂


The slides can be seen separately here:

The presentation has some of Taleb’s standard fare, but the introduction is very good (the perils of sampling & statistics on fat tailed distributions). The talk is supposed to be about the paper: A New Heuristic Measure of Fragility and Tail Risks: Application to Stress Testing, but unfortunately, he barely gets to it.

Similarly to his concept of anti-library (“books you haven’t yet read are more important that those you did”) this turned out to be an anti-presentation (the good/new stuff was mostly left out…).

Either I’m getting old or he does (or both), but he seemed friendlier and less arrogant than his usual self (Taleb is somebody who I love dearly, and love to hate even more! I think he’d approve this sort of sentiment).