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The payoff of a human venture is, in general, inversely proportional to what it is expected to be.
First, it is an outlier, as it lies outside the realm of regular expectations, because nothing in the past can convincingly point to its possibility. Second, it carries an extreme impact (unlike the bird). Third, in spite of its outlier status, human nature makes us concoct explanations for its occurrence after the fact, making it explainable and predictable.
Another way to rephrase the general distinction is as follows: Mediocristan is where we must endure the tyranny of the collective, the routine, the obvious, and the predicted; Extremistan is where we are subjected to the tyranny of the singular, the accidental, the unseen, and the unpredicted.
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The Black Swan: Second Edition: The Impact of the Highly Improbable: With a new section: "On Robustness and Fragility" (Incerto) Paperback – May 11, 2010
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“The most prophetic voice of all.”—GQ
Praise for The Black Swan
“[A book] that altered modern thinking.”—The Times (London)
“A masterpiece.”—Chris Anderson, editor in chief of Wired, author of The Long Tail
“Idiosyncratically brilliant.”—Niall Ferguson, Los Angeles Times
“The Black Swan changed my view of how the world works.”—Daniel Kahneman, Nobel laureate
“[Taleb writes] in a style that owes as much to Stephen Colbert as it does to Michel de Montaigne. . . . We eagerly romp with him through the follies of confirmation bias [and] narrative fallacy.”—The Wall Street Journal
“Hugely enjoyable—compelling . . . easy to dip into.”—Financial Times
“Engaging . . . The Black Swan has appealing cheek and admirable ambition.”—The New York Times Book Review
About the Author
Taleb’s books have been published in forty-one languages.
- Publisher : Random House Publishing Group; 2nd ed. edition (May 11, 2010)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 444 pages
- ISBN-10 : 081297381X
- ISBN-13 : 978-0812973815
- Item Weight : 11.7 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.1 x 0.9 x 7.9 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #4,831 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
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 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.