Benoit Mandelbrot, 1924-2010
A Greek among Romans
* "To Benoit Mandelbrot A Greek among Romans" is the Incipit of The "Black Swan" Taleb's book.
* Taleb calls Mandelbrot the "poet of Randomness" in the chap.16 "Aesthetics of Randomness"
* "Intellectually sophisticated characters were exactly
what I looked for in life" (and they are seldom). Taleb p.255 The Black Swan, 2007.
* He could also have said an "Athenian among Boeotian" but Romans are powerful (vs. Boeotians) and Benoit Mandelbrot had to fight the establishment with his visual research. "Pariah amongst French Mathematicians". With his Fractal images, his work was "remarkably easy to understand" for the general public.
* Unlike in Rome, the most popular shows in Athenes were not Circus WWE gladiator fights, it was going to Aeschylus or Sophocles tragedies.
Taleb's homepage http://www.fooledbyrandomness.com/
I admire the wit of Taleb to call Mandelbrot a Greek--in this modern world of very Roman panem et circenses.
Not even. Taleb values a combination of intellectual integrity, street smarts, empiricism, and humility in the face of uncertainty.
Far from considering ordinary people 'like you and me' to be philistines, he finds those traits he values in many different walks of life - from the Brooklyn born street-smart trader 'Fat Tony', to casino operators (their risk is not the actual games), to military planners (the risk managers with the most at stake).
He also finds the opposite - the Platonists (those who make the mistake of believing their highly complex yet nevertheless oversimplified models can reliably represent reality) and the philistines (people who value commerce above all else, and art, science, literature only for their capacity to make money or signal it, if at all) - everywhere as well. His particular targets are Wall Street, financial academia, and Economics Nobel, not 'you and me'.
He's quite clear on this in his books and writings.
The expression "A Greek among Romans" is used maybe because Mandelbrot perspective to geometry was a bit different than the common scientific community in 1975-1985. There were many mentions about the "fractal set" just being "fancy" maths. He learned from the community while remaining unique in the community. But now there are many relationship with other model like "diffusion-limited aggregation" (DLA) and the fractal set is now one of the many models to describe our environment.