From the prologue of NN Taleb’s Antifragile:
Which brings us to the largest fragilizer of society, and greatest generator of crises, absense of “skin in the game.” Some become antifragile at the expense of others by getting the upside (or gains) from volatility, variations, and disorder and exposing others to the downside risks of losses or harm
While in the past people of rank or status were those and only those who took risks, who had the downside for their actions, and heroes were those who did so for the sake of others, today the exact reverse is taking place. We are witnessing a new class of inverse heroes, that is, bureaucrats, banks, Davos-attending members of the IAND (International Association of Name Droppers), and academics with too much power and no real downside and/or accountability. They game the system while citizens pay the price.
Exhibit #1: Chris Turney and the Australasian Antarctic Expedition: When Turney’s team got stuck in Antarctic ice, their maritime chorus of tweets informed the world something unexpected had happened to them. It turns out the exact opposite was true, the incident almost entirely avoidable and a number of risks needlessly taken. After scrambling vessels thousands of miles away for their rescue, the ship’s obliviously ebullient occupants partied away in full view of a bewildered world audience. The ensuing outrage forced Chris Turney to the pages of Nature where he began name-dropping in support of his mission. When rescued, the team reminded how everyone looks after one another in Antarctica (when it was they getting looked after). Finally, landing in Hobart after a month’s delay, Turney offered apologies but capped it off with how there was “inherent risk” in Antarctic research and how his team members “have been on the other side and supported others when they’ve been caught”.
Exhibit #2: James Annan: Just as with the shameful Soon and Baliunas fiasco, a group of scientists got together, this time, to bring down an entire journal that carried papers by sceptic authors. Their instigator? James Annan. The publisher’s response, the toppled papers, and the blinking protests of the poor bastards are all in the open. Not Annan’s reasons however, who nevertheless admits to writing emails to “various people”, leading to the journal shutdown. When pressed to make his case explicit, Annan could come up with nothing. Unlike the past, where he made bets on climate, Annan got what he wanted but never put his money or reputation on the line.