The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable Re-issue Edition
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- Item Weight : 12.3 ounces
- Paperback : 480 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0141034599
- ISBN-13 : 978-0141034591
- Dimensions : 1.2 x 5 x 7.7 inches
- Publisher : Penguin; Re-issue edition (January 1, 2008)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #2,082,773 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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I can certainly understand him taking exception with those who, at least in the lead up to 2008, steered us onto the financial rocks, but his beating of the same drum quickly grows stale. Here I think of the maxim that at some point you have to fix the problem and not the blame. This book could have been a hundred pages shorter--perhaps a 20,000 word piece of long-form journalism.
He also drifts to and fro quite a bit in his writing. While I truly enjoy his erudition and a touch of the circumlocution, this work would have been much better served if he had kept to the task at hand.
There are a couple of redeeming aspects to his effort however. His admonition that it is better to prepare than it is to predict are wise words in any walk of life and here he frames them nicely.
Also, in the epilogue he lists his "Ten principles for a black swan robust society." These are wonderful admonitions such as society should not socialize the losses and privatize the gains. Capitalism is about rewards and punishments not just rewards is another good point. This short section is well worth your time.
I also liked his introduction to the reader of the concept of iatrogenics--making sure no lasting harm is done while trying to help.
This would have worked much better in 20K words and without the snide comments regarding others and their fields of study. I think an admonishment that fits here is the "play the ball not the man."
Neal Schier - June 2018
Actually, the far-and-away most interesting parts of the book were the author's stories about Lebanon, which I found fascinating. I'd read a whole book about that, by this author. But that was about 10% of the book, and the rest of it was pompous junk.
The author comes off as very self-righteous and rather arrogant. That didn't help starting the book off feeling that way over the first few chapters.
The problem I have this book, is that while Nassim identifies the theories well, he did not produce the evidence, examples, or anecdotes all too interestingly. It was...well...rather boring.
My second issue with the book is that he doesn't do a good enough job providing applicable takeaways; opportunities to use the research and data in one's life or work. He writes about the theories but doesn't tell the readers how to best put it into practice in our lives.
Good topic, mediocre execution. I'm disappointed mostly because I had been looking forward to reading this book for a while.
The book covers both the math as well as the narrative intuition for understanding rare events and why we tend to underestimate both their frequency and effects on our best laid plans.
The book is full of hundreds of great examples, and it is written in a very approachable style.
Whether you are a hard core statistician or just someone interested in statistics, this is a great book for you.
Top reviews from other countries
In the course of 400 pages, Nassim Taleb discourses amusingly and eruditely on black swans and the human reaction to them, which isn't always logical. The most valuable take-away message is that history does not always prepare us for the future - Taleb uses the example of turkeys and Christmas. For a thousand days, the farmer feeds his turkeys and the turkey think he's a kind man who loves turkeys. So when the day of slaughter comes, they get a rude awakening. (Christmas of course being a black swan event for turkeys.)
If you have unlimited time and enjoy philosophical and psychological degressions, and want to know about Taleb's life, you will probably enjoy this book. If your time is limited and you just want to know the essentials about black swans, look elsewhere.