- Series: Incerto
- Paperback: 368 pages
- Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks; 2 Updated edition (August 23, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 158799190X
- ISBN-13: 978-1587991905
- ASIN: 0812975219
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars See all reviews (762 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #9,294 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets (Incerto) Paperback – August 23, 2005
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If the prescriptions for getting rich that are outlined in books such as The Millionaire Next Door and Rich Dad Poor Dad are successful enough to make the books bestsellers, then one must ask, Why aren't there more millionaires? In Fooled by Randomness, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, a professional trader and mathematics professor, examines what randomness means in business and in life and why human beings are so prone to mistake dumb luck for consummate skill. This eccentric and highly personal exploration of the nature of randomness meanders from the court of Croesus and trading rooms in New York and London to Russian roulette, Monte Carlo engines, and the philosophy of Karl Popper. Part of what makes this book so good is Taleb's ability to make seemingly arcane mathematical concepts (at least to this reviewer) entirely relevant in evaluating and understanding everything from the stock market to the success of those millionaires cited in the aforementioned bestsellers. Here's an articulate, wise, and humorous meditation on the nature of success and failure that anyone who wants a little more of the former would do well to consider. Highly recommended. --Harry C. Edwards --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
In this look at financial luck, hedge fund manager Taleb (Dynamic Hedging) addresses the apparently irrational movement of money markets around the world. Using his own investing experience and examples of others' successes and disappointments, he discusses theories like Monte Carlo math (easy; considered cheating by purists) and the concept of Russian roulette. Taleb tells interesting, well-wrought stories about individual behavior: "While Nero has succeeded beyond his wildest dreams, both personally and intellectually, he is starting to consider himself as having missed a chance somewhere." While serious investors and mathematics enthusiasts will be intrigued, readers looking for practical investment strategies will be disappointed by this rambling intellectual discourse. Tables. 40,000-copy first printing; $150,000 marketing budget.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top customer reviews
I've read all four of Taleb's books and Fooled By Randomness still stands out as my favorite. Although Black Swan is still the most popular, and most controversial, Fooled in many ways is the most practical, as it's the most general and therefore most widely applicable. Everyone should deeply understand the survivorship and hindsight biases, as well as the difference between conditional and unconditional probability.
That being said, it's often hard to determine whether the heart of the book is the ideas (which to someone such as myself who has only a Stats 101 background in probability are almost always revelation-inducing) or the author. I can't stress how much I learned from this book that has nothing to do with probability or statistics, just random asides from an erudite and meandering mind. Regardless of your background (or even your interest in probability) you will probable learn some fascinating and/or useful tidbit from Fooled, and probably a whole lot more.
Somewhat personal lifestyle story but serious warnings like those of George E P Box that "all models are wrong, but some are useful." But Taleb adds that modern derivatives and options that lose most of the time but win big infrequently are a great strategy for those with means and patience while crashes wipe out the rest of the naked speculators big time. Enjoyed the ideas and stories. Academics will appreciate the well selected references and explanations of why only are a few have "useful models" in the big human-centric gambling casino that is Wall Street. Economics in general is a fuzzy world to model compared to more deterministic factory machines. So don't stop using statistical methods in that latter world. But protect yourself from human factors in the financial world.
Overall the book was interesting for a novice reader but definitely not an easy to follow book. There were many parts of the book where I had to stop and read twice or thrice to understand what the author is trying to say. It definitely shows you a different mindset of the Type A personality investment bankers and traders.
The book walks through various phases of how randomness and probability affect people from all walks of life. It is well divided into three major parts, each explaining different angles in which people view probability and randomness in their lives and how they deal with it on an individual level. The author explains well how perception and biases are responsible for people making wrong decisions. He talks about the fact that even though we cannot completely ignore emotions, we cannot as well completely remove probability and randomness while evaluating decisions and risks. The author also explains about the Monte Carlos simulators and how they should always be used to predict outcomes in the future rather than just relying on data from the past. The author also has strong views about denigrate history suggesting that people feel that things that happen to others might not happen to them. Nassim has given a lot of examples to show the reader the various angles in which randomness and probability is perceived, used and interpreted by people. The author also draws light upon the fact that too much information might end up doing more harm than good as it blurs your decision and your ability to choose the right information. Nassim also strongly emphasizes on the fact that any individual should never get completely loyal to his position as it hinders him from looking at different points of views. This in turns affects his decision making and ability to adapt to the changes that come with the position. The author has given examples of people from his life, famous people throughout history as well as people from various field of work to prove his point in several occasions. The author finally suggests that it is inevitable to be affected by randomness as he himself has been affected by it. However whatever the effects of randomness in anyone's life, they never should blame anyone or get angry but just learn to deal with and change is always inevitable.
The book has been written in a very personal format where it feels as if the author is trying to convey a message through a personal talk. Talking about experiences in his life and sharing his emotions definitely helps build that connection with the author. The author's style seems very straight and blunt as well. It feels like he has no qualms about how he has experienced life or what he has thought about some people who he has met in life. This is clearly seen in way he expresses feelings about some of his neighbors, coworkers or even people he has heard about. It gives a sort of raw understanding into the mind of the author. In doing so he has been able to sort of organize his book in to the various aspects of randomness, its effects and biases that come with it and finally how several people deal with it. This sort of structure helps in understanding the complex message that the author is trying to convey.
There are quite a few quotes that got me thinking, some of which are: "Mild success can be explainable by skills and labor. Wild success is attributable to variance.", "Heroes are heroes because they are heroic in behavior, not because they won or lost.", "A mistake is not something to be determined after the fact, but in the light of the information until that point.", "The only article Lady Fortuna has no control over is your behavior.". However my most favorite line from the book is "No amount of observations of white swans can allow the inference that all swans are white, but the observation of a single black swan is sufficient to refute that conclusion." I love it because it made me think and realize that this applies to so many things in life. Your reputation that you build upon for so many years can all come crashing down with a major mistake. Nassim explains this with an example of a successful banker who earned millions for a bank however a single mistake that cost him millions got him fired and forgotten of the things he had done in the past.
After reading through the entire book you have a sense of confusion mainly due to the fact that it does stay close to its name that there is a lot of talk about randomness that exists in the world and the market. However Nassims ability to convince the author is promising. He himself believes that he was fooled by randomness and consciously tries to make certain decision that help him in making the sound decision.
Overall this book has great things to offer from head scratching content to knowledge to even humor at times and is definitely worth a read. It helped me step out of my comfort reading zone and challenge me in my thoughts and opinions that I had about various aspects in life.