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Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets (Incerto) Paperback – August 23, 2005

4.4 out of 5 stars 2,385 ratings

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Editorial Reviews


"[Taleb is] Wall Street’s principal dissident. . . . [Fooled By Randomness] is to conventional Wall Street wisdom approximately what Martin Luther’s ninety-nine theses were to the Catholic Church.”
Malcolm Gladwell, The New Yorker

“Fascinating . . . Taleb will grab you.”
Peter L. Bernstein, author of Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk

“Recalls the best of scientist/essayists like Richard Dawkins . . . and Stephen Jay Gould.”
Michael Schrage, author of Serious Play

“We need a book like this . . . fun to read, refreshingly independent-minded.”
Robert J. Shiller, author of Irrational Exuberance

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 forty-one languages.

Product details

  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ 0812975219
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Random House Trade Paperbacks; 2nd ed. edition (August 23, 2005)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 368 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 158799190X
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0812975215
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 9.4 ounces
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 5.14 x 0.75 x 7.96 inches
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.4 out of 5 stars 2,385 ratings

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Customer reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5
2,385 global ratings
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Top reviews from the United States

Reviewed in the United States on July 8, 2018
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Reviewed in the United States on September 18, 2019
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Reviewed in the United States on August 31, 2018
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3.0 out of 5 stars Saeva Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi
By Arianne on September 4, 2019
"Fortune, Cruel Empress of the World” - The ancients knew her ever so well. She offers us a ride on the cyclical wheel of annihilation which ends in annihilation by cyclicality. ‘Fooled by Fortuna’ is a viable alternative title for this book which would covey the author’s message which is just a reminder of the precarious position we occupy in the world of experience. Luck plays a pivotal role in winning and losing, victory and defeat, we simply choose not to acknowledge it and instead dream up false attributions to skill, leadership and aplomb. This about sums up the thesis of the book. Nothing new here, nothing original, just a description of experience and events, but something of which we need to be reminded of every so often. Examples show that some people are just lucky, others unlucky, how the attribution fallacy, inductive fallacy and the false precision fallacy arise; that success is relative, how coincidence is mistaken for cause, how the mirage of false pattern recognition is mistaken for genuine phenomena; that opinions and selections are full of bias and human knowledge is replete with asymmetries. It is we in the modern, or dare I say it, we of the post-modern world, that need to be reminded that much of our understanding and control over perceived reality is an illusion.


Financial theories and economic paradigms are not a matter of truth about reality, they are fictional narratives we tell ourselves about reality; the narratives are about how we navigate our experience of existence. However, it is from this basis that we proceed as if we understand reality and control events. This result is to be fooled by randomness. Economics is just a created construct to help us navigate the experience of a random existence and retrospectively explain random events. In a way, economic theory is a narrow band response to the conditions of existence, not a description of the underlying reality of existence. Such theories are not much different than religious beliefs, both are placebos; attempts to impose order and determinate explanations upon the indeterminate randomness of existence. Many of our explanatory theories employed to guide our experience of existence reduces to a cacophony of concatenated asymmetrical subjective approximations. We are victimized by Fate, tyrannized by Evolution and cursed by Genetics. Within the pages we read many examples of those subjected to the tyranny of goals and undone by the treachery of plans. Is it not Fate for whom of course we each wait? Yes, for Fortuna to spin once again her great wheel; it is likely she who invented the wheel.

Critical Comments:

The author rightly points out the silliness and fallaciousness of pseudo-scientific thinking and warns the reader against falling for it. He then proceeds to engage in his own form of pseudo-philosophical thinking with an ad hominem attack on Hegel. I wish that he would have chosen not to mar his otherwise interesting book with a low brow diatribe. Taleb understands Hegel as a “The Father of All Pseudo-thinkers”. Clearly, Taleb has not read Hegel in anything more than the most superficial manner. He fails to see the master dialectician and instead employs the advanced philosophical methodologies of taking quotes out of context, engaging in an overly simplistic reductions and from here, drawing false inferences. These are many of the fallacies that he warns the reader to avoid. The flaw in Taleb’s analysis is to consider a single statement, or perhaps even several individual statements by Hegel out of context and fail to consider Hegel as presenting a comprehensive system of thought as well as a challenge to comprehensive systems of thought, with its own unique internal consistency, the sum of which is greater than a single portion considered out of context and subjected to the parlor tricks conjured up with the misapplication of Mote Carlo simulations. In seems that Taleb is being fooled by his own noise. Maybe the title of the book should have been ‘Noise Pollution’.

Amusing, but Not as the Author Intended

Amusingly, Taleb anticipates and preemptively attacks reviews of this book appearing on Amazon, before they are posted by saying that such views say more about the reviewer than the book. That is, the reviews are preemptively dismissed as being self-reflexive This is also a borderline case of the ad hominem fallacy. Add to this the taint of ‘poising the well’ of reviews with his all too easy preemptive dismissal and as well ‘painting with the broad brush’ and putting all reviews in the same category, generating his own type of category error. The gentleman doth protest too much, methinks – how amusing.
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Reviewed in the United States on November 3, 2015
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Vaddadi Kartick
1.0 out of 5 stars 10% insight, 90% rambling.
Reviewed in India on March 4, 2019
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1.0 out of 5 stars Waste of time
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on August 23, 2018
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4.0 out of 5 stars Ignore the hate as there is value to be gained by reading this.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on October 1, 2019
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4.0 out of 5 stars Dry theory explained through exciting stories.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on June 16, 2020
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5.0 out of 5 stars Simply Brilliant
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on November 22, 2020
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