Was he pulling his leg?

I'm currently in the middle of The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable (which deserves more starts than Amazon gives it). On p. 131, the author relates being at a cocktail party where Yossi Vardi, whom he describes as "one of the most insightful thinkers I know, the computer entrepreneur" asks "to summarize 'my idea' while standing on one leg."

The combination of the distinctly Jewish name of Yossi brought in connection to a reference to a summation while standing on one leg evokes Hillel and Shamai's different responses to that same request made about Torah (Shabbos 31a).  Though Nassim Nicholas Taleb comes across as very erudite, he doesn't indicate that he's familiar with the Talmudic account, though. He seems to focus on the problem of maintaining balance after downing a few glasses of wine: "It was not too convenient to stand on one leg after a few glasses of perfumed Riesling, so I failed in my improvisation." The next morning, he says, a formulation came to him as follows: "the cosmetic and the Platonic rise naturally to the surface." Not quite as pithy as Hillel's formulation of all of Torah, and, certainly, less concrete or practically instructive. However, Taleb is more concerned with observing how people fall into errors of thinking and perception rather than in telling people how to live.


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