From Antifragile:

There is such a thing as nonnerdy applied mathematics: find a problem first, and figure out the math that works for it (just as one acquires language), rather than study in a vacuum through theorems and artificial examples, then change reality to make it look like these examples.

This is similar to how I define very applied math in that the problem comes first, not the math.

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Did you enjoy the book? I enjoyed Mr. Talebs previous two works on randomness, but this one was a bit over the top, every concrete example of his theories he gives that happens to lie in an area where I have some experience, sometimes quite extensive, is completely misguided, what he writes about evolution, physical fitness, engineering practice is all non-sense.

I did enjoy the book, more than his previous books. I don’t have to agree with Taleb in detail to find his book thought-provoking and entertaining. I do agree with his thesis that it is important to evaluate systems by how they respond to randomness, and that it is easier to detect fragility than to estimate the probabilities of rare events. And I agree with his idea that suppressing variability in the short run can lead to disaster in the longer run. It’s good to let small forest fires burn, and it’s good to let companies go out of business, for example.

Applied mathematicians have the creative side which must first invent the structures for which there (pure) reasoning comes to rest on. But pure math is not about solving problems but learning arbitrary mathematical fact. A pure mathematician is merely a quick learner. But a good applied mathematician has the empiricist quality of inventing novel models (building a new “perspective”) and can switch gracefully to the mode of deep reasoning, shared by those pure mathematicians…all as a means of generate a useful solution to a very particular instance.