- Paperback: 366 pages
- Publisher: Random House Inc. (2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0812979184
- ISBN-13: 978-0812979183
- Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.8 x 8.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 1,272 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,913,417 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Black Swan Paperback – 2008
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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.
Overall, this is a thought provoking and very intriguing book. Taleb challenges some of the fundamental aspects of the way most people see the world and provides a compelling case why it is all wrong. It is also amazing regarding his predictions of the catastrophic consequences of bank failures, written before the crash in 08. As well as a line regarding how anyone can become president.
The areas I disagree mainly relate to his reliance on the the problem of induction being unsolveable, or when you can go from specific events to generalizations. While I agree, no philosopher has proved the solution, all our knowledge implies induction. All deductions presuppose inductions. To use the prototypical case: 'Socrate is mortal' is based on the induction that 'All men are mortal'. If 'All men are mortal' and similar inductions are not valid, then neither is the knowledge that stems from them.
Read for yourself and decide if you have been wrong all along in assessing the nature of uncertainty and risk.
I can certainly understand him taking a different view that those who have at least once steered us onto the rocks, but it gets old fast. This book could have been a hundred pages shorter--perhaps a 20,000 word piece of long-form journalism.
He drifts to and fro quite a bit in his writing. While I truly enjoy his erudition and a touch of the circumlocution, he would have been better served with this work to keep to task.
There are couple of things that really redeem his effort however. His admonition that preparation is the better course than prediction are wise words in any walk of life and 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 not socializing the losses and privatizing the gains. Capitalism is about rewards and punishments not just rewards is another good point. This short section is worth the book.
I also liked his introduction to the reader of the concept of iatrogenics--making sure no lasting harm is done while trying to help.
20K words would have been better as would have keeping the snide comments regarding others to a minimum. Play the ball not the man is a phrase that fits well here.
Neal Schier - June 2018