179 of 198 people found the following review helpful
Intiguing but ultimately unsatisfying,
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This review is from: Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in the Markets and in Life (Hardcover)
I bought FOOLED BY RANDOMNESS after reading the Malcolm Gladwell profile on Nassim Nicholas Taleb in the April issue of the New Yorker. Like others who have reviewed this book, I found that Gladwell captured the most important details of Taleb's thoughts in a shorter, more entertaining way. However, I thought that this book can be a worthwhile read for those with a passion for this type of book.
FOOLED BY RANDOMNESS is an introduction to the difficulties human beings have at reasoning around probability. Taleb argues that human beings are genetically hardwired to misattribute the results of human endeavors to skill and knowledge that are, in fact, just coincidental, random events. Taleb discusses the results of this embedded flaw in human reasoning in three areas.
In part 1, Taleb discusses impacts of `rare events' on both financial markets and on human history. Taleb argues we should beware seemingly successful strategies if they are not proven by the test of history. In particular, we should examine human history in the long term for general trends and treat skeptically claims that humanity has reached `the end of history' or `a new economic model' where the old, proven rules do not apply.
In part 2, Taleb discusses the `survivor effect', or mistaking success based on luck for success based on skill. In particular, Taleb warns against judging a strategy by its actual results. Instead, we should judge strategies based upon a sum of all possible outcomes.
In part 3, Taleb briefly discusses `tricks' he has developed to try and derail his flawed, ingrained, statistical reasoning and live a rational and, to a great degree, classical life based upon a good understanding of the effect of randomness on our lives.
The book is peppered with classical references to ancient philosophers and literature, as well as humorous anecdotes to Taleb's own experience in the world of Wall Street. Unfortunately, interesting nuggets and provocative thoughts throughout the book are rarely fully explored. While I was entertained and intrigued, when I got to an end of a chapter or section, I often felt dissatisfied, as if I was trying to wrap my arms around some meaty ideas and came away with empty air.
Unlike other reviewers, however, I did not find Taleb particularly pretentious. In fact, I often felt that Taleb was more than open with his own particular foibles and failings. His only source of pride seemed to be in realizing that he had these failings. Ironically, Taleb attributes this understanding to the experiences suffered in his own personal, contingent history.
Overall, I found the book to be like a good Chinese dinner: entertaining at the time of reading, but left hungry an hour later.
Dav's Rating System:
5 stars - Loved it, and kept it on my bookshelf.
4 stars - Liked it, and gave it to a friend.
3 stars - OK, finished it and gave it to the library.
2 stars - Not good, finished it, but felt guilty and/or cheated by it.
1 star - I want my hour back! Didn't finish the book
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 5, 2009 4:35:24 AM PST
Andre Oliveira says:
Way to go in reviewing a book. Informative yet opinative. My most sincere congratulations! You should do this for a living.
In reply to an earlier post on Mar 13, 2012 11:58:10 AM PDT
H. A. R. Jones says:
Gladwell copies much from Taleb, and Taleb is more scholarly in his approach. Ultimately this book is far from dinner reading but is surely pround in its scope. You just didn't get it. I'll bet you skimmed.
In reply to an earlier post on Mar 13, 2012 6:59:23 PM PDT
Amazon Customer says:
Thank you for the thoughts. I appreciate the time you spent in crafting a reply.
Posted on Dec 5, 2012 2:57:45 PM PST
Daniel E. Hofford says:
David, you say in your review "In part 2, Taleb discusses the `survivor effect', or mistaking success based on luck for success based on skill. In particular, Taleb warns against judging a strategy by its actual results. Instead, we should judge strategies based upon a sum of all possible outcomes."
I haven't read this book yet (currently reading Antifragil) but you seem to have a pretty good grasp of what Taleb is about here and wonder if you could tell me if this method of judging strategies based upon a sum of all possible outcomes could be deployed to analyze failures? Would this give any insight into why a system or strategy failed?
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