The Prometheus Motif
N. Taleb, New York
In Greek legend, there were two Titan brothers, Prometheus and Epimetheus. Prometheus means „fore-thinker“ while Epimetheus means „after-thinker,“ equivalent to someone who falls for the retrospective distortion of fitting theories to past events in an ex post narrative manner.
Prometheus gave us fire and represents the progress of civilization, while Epimetheus represents backward thinking, staleness, and lack of intelligence. It was Epimetheus who accepted Pandora‘s gift, the large jar, with irreversible consequences.
Optionality is Prometheus, narratives are Epimethean - one has reversible and benign mistakes, the other symbolizes the gravity and irreversibility of the consequences of opening Pandora‘s box.
You make forays into the future by opportunism and optionality. So far we have seen the power of optionality as an alternative way of doing things, opportunistically, with some large edge coming from asymmetry with large benefits and benign harm. It is a way - the only way - to domesticate uncertainty, to work rationally without understanding the future, while reliance on narratives is the exact opposite: one is domesticated by uncertainty, and ironically set back. You cannot look at the future by naive projection of the past ... [...]
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