Did Davos Steal Its Theme From an Author Who Hates Davos?

David Wagner
The Atlantic Wire

As the author of The Black Swan, Taleb has been praised for predicting the banking collapse of 2008. Last year, he released a new book outlining his concept of "antifragility," which people chattering about Davos online pinpoint as the true intellectual origin of "resilient dynamism." 

RT “@jacobwe: Theme Davos: Trying to figure out what "resilient dynamism" is supposed to mean. #WEF” it's #antifragility, w/o quoting Taleb

— ian bremmer (@ianbremmer) January 23, 2013

It turns out that the Davos theme "Resilient Dynamism" is just a fancy Davosism that means plain-old "Antifragility" twitter.com/ianbremmer/sta…

— Joseph Weisenthal (@TheStalwart) January 23, 2013

Interesting in light of Taleb's criticism of term "resilience," that it is theme of Davos this year: ht.ly/h2XF7 @jornmadslien

— Bernard Golden (@bernardgolden) January 23, 2013

#WEF theme @davos this year: Resilient Dynamism. It sounds a little like Nassim Taleb's Anti-Fragile darwinian dynamism

— Nouriel Roubini (@Nouriel) January 22, 2013

And somewhere Taleb either laughs or has an aneurysm. rt @johnlothian WEF's Schwab Says Iran, Syria Are ‘Black Swans’ bloom.bg/UN107BWEF's

— James Saft (@jamessaft) January 22, 2013

So how accurate is the meme that Davos stole their theme from Taleb? We won't pretend to speak with authority, but we will offer these two definitions up for comparison. In her review of AntifragileThe New York Times' Michiko Kakutani teases out this meaning of the term

Mr. Taleb contends that we must learn how to make our public and private lives (our political systems, our social policies, our finances, etc.) not merely less vulnerable to randomness and chaos, but actually “antifragile” — poised to benefit or take advantage of stress, errors and change, the way, say, the mythological Hydra generated two new heads, each time one was cut off.

And the executive summary of this year's WEF offers this meditation on the concept of "resilient dynamism":

We live in the most complex, interdependent and interconnected era in human history – a reality we know as the hyperconnected world. This reality presents a new leadership context, shaped by adaptive challenges as well as transformational opportunities. Yet efforts to rebuild confidence and restore growth remain vulnerable to looming political and economic shocks. Indeed, there is no “risk-off” setting for the global economy, but leaders from the public and private sectors need to adopt a “risk-on” mindset to catalyse dynamic growth. Dynamism in this context requires successful organizations to demonstrate strategic agility and to possess risk resilience. 

We leave it up to you, patient reader, to determine whether or not Davos ripped Taleb off. But we should note that two parties involved have quite the contentious history. In 2009, Taleb attended the event and proceeded to tear into the banking industry with such vigor that he must've made many elite businessmen in the room nervous. 

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The following year he declined to attend, saying that he was sick of the name dropping. Taleb has something of an ego, and he's not afraid to go on the record with his hatred for other Davos regulars like Thomas Friedman (who is totally there this year, and will answer once an for all the question of whether or not "democracy is winning"). He wrote in Antifragile that when he saw Friedman at Davos he felt literally nauseous, calling the New York Times columnist to be "vile and harmful."

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Inset image: Charlie Rose