Author Archive | Kurt Cobb

Stock hedges, home insurance, and our misunderstanding of risk

“If you own stocks without a hedge, it’s not rational.” So says the world’s most famous student of risk Nassim Nicholas Taleb in a recent interview with Bloomberg as many of the world’s stock markets hover near all-time highs. “It’s like buying a house without insurance,” he explained. “We have tail risks today that we […]

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The trouble with infrastructure

The trouble with infrastructure is that it breaks down and needs to be repaired, it wears out and needs to be replaced, and it gets destroyed and needs to be rebuilt. All that requires energy, resources, labor and money. Conceptually, here’s the problem we face. The bigger we make any part of our infrastructure–roads, pipelines, […]

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“Reform” won’t solve our biggest problems

“You never cure structural defects; you let the system collapse.” As I contemplated this proposition taken from a recent piece by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, I realized what profound implications accepting it would have for all those engaged in attempting to address our current social, political and environmental ills. If it is true that modern capitalism […]

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Remembering where we live: Physics vs. biology

It is awe-inspiring to view images of galaxies and nebulas brought to us by high-powered, space-based telescopes. And, it is even more amazing to see depictions of such phenomena as if we, the viewers, are suspended in space a long, long way from Earth. In fact, in modern science fiction movies and television shows we […]

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Is adaptation to climate change really feasible?

The climate change denial lobby likes to use a variant of the dog bite defense. Perhaps you’ll recall the joke about the owner of a dog that bit a passerby. Defending himself in court, the owner says: “My dog doesn’t bite. It wasn’t my dog. And furthermore, I don’t have a dog.” In similar fashion […]

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Living in a world we can’t understand

What is not intelligible to me is not necessarily unintelligent.                          –Friedrich Nietzsche As we know, there are known knowns. There are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns. That is to say, we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns, the […]

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‘Watch what we do, not what we say': Shell cancels U.S. gas-to-liquids plant

When civil rights advocates grew restless because of President Richard Nixon’s right-wing rhetoric on the issue of desegregation, then-Attorney General John Mitchell told them, ”Watch what we do, not what we say.” Those following the hype over America’s supposed newfound abundance of oil and natural gas would do well to follow that advice when evaluating […]

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