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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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Praise for Nassim Nicholas Taleb
“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
Nassim Nicholas Taleb has devoted his life to problems of uncertainty, probability, and knowledge. He spent nearly two decades as a businessman and quantitative trader before becoming a full-time philosophical essayist and academic researcher in 2006. Although he spends most of his time in the intense seclusion of his study, or as a flâneur meditating in cafés, he is currently Distinguished Professor of Risk Engineering at New York University’s Polytechnic Institute. His main subject matter is “decision making under opacity”—that is, a map and a protocol on how we should live in a world we don’t understand.
Taleb’s books have been published in thirty-three languages.
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I can certainly understand him taking exception with those who have, at least in the lead up to 2008, steered us onto the financial rocks, but his beating of the same drum gets quickly 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
I am still absorbing this but I think it has changed how I look at things and manage for risk and opportunity.
The author's writing is sometimes a bit bombastic and even perhaps condescending but a smart reader won't let that get in her way.