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The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable (Incerto #2)

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3.87  ·  Rating Details ·  54,353 Ratings  ·  3,065 Reviews
A black swan is a highly improbable event with three principal characteristics: It is unpredictable; it carries a massive impact; and, after the fact, we concoct an explanation that makes it appear less random, and more predictable, than it was.

The astonishing success of Google was a black swan; so was 9/11. For Nassim Nicholas Taleb, black swans underlie almost everythin
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Hardcover, 401 pages
Published May 15th 2007 by Random House (first published 2007)
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J. Skip around! Talib even encourages you to skip certain chapters if you don't want to be bogged down in the details or the math.
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Nina
Jan 12, 2008 Nina rated it did not like it
It took a lot of willpower to not put this book down. This guy could have written a very interesting 5-page essay on his main idea, which is that people overestimate their ability to predict the future and that unexpected, extraordinary events - of whose occurrence we do not even know the probability, since the event is usually outside the realm of what we think is possible - are in the end what really matter. Instead, he took this solid (and unoriginal, I might add) idea, gave it a clever name ...more
Nick
Aug 11, 2008 Nick rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a great book. And, to take a page from Taleb, anyone who doesn't think so is wrong.

No, no, there are a number of problems with the book. A bit bloated, a bit repetitive. And NNT does make the misstep every once and a while. To take a very small instance, Taleb bases a short section of the book upon the idea that to be "hardened by the Gulag" means to become "harder" or "stronger" rather than its true meaning of someone who has become inured to certain difficulties, not necessarily strong
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Aaron
Jun 11, 2008 Aaron rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Zach
Recommended to Aaron by: Zach
This is a book that raises a number of very important questions, but chief among them is definitely the question of how the interplay between a good idea and an insufferable author combine to effect the reading experience?

This author is an a-hole. Full stop. He's dismissive, chronically insecure, unstructured and hostile towards his detractors. He engages in what may be the lowest form of rhetoric by pre-emptively attacking any critics (even before they've had the chance to come forward) as too
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rmn
Jun 21, 2008 rmn rated it liked it
I can summarize this book in two words: Shit happens.

Actually, I should be more fair since the author spent 300 pages laying out his beliefs and arguing his conclusions. The real summary of this book should be: Shit happens more often than you think.

The author, Taleb, rails against economics, most philosophers, and the way we incorporate news to allow us to make sense of events and everyday happenings. He wants us to unlearn the way we think and learn, while destroying the modern beliefs in stat
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Ted
Taleb is a pretty good writer, but I thought this was a very uneven book. As I read it I was constantly alternating between "Wow, that's a really great insight, a great way of presenting it" and "Gee, who doesn't realize that?", or even "That just seems flat-out wrong".

It's a book that should have been read by the quantitative analysts ("quants") working for the hedge funds and investment banks in early 2008; but it probably wouldn't have made much difference in the financial melt-down that foll
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Greg
Aug 29, 2008 Greg rated it it was ok
This book has diminishing returns on the time spent reading it. Taleb's jeremiad is directed against - well - everyone who is not as enlightened as he is. I trudged through this book because - well - everyone is reading it and enlightened people should know how to comment on it. There, I did it. Now I can look down on all those people out there who aren't enlightened like Taleb. And now, me.

Taleb is actually on to something important if you can tolerate his self-importance enough to filter his v
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Jan Rice
Sep 14, 2015 Jan Rice rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The first time through, I listened to this book with my husband, usually while I was cooking. Although I tried to stop and mark important passages, I ended up thinking the book was not very systematic. The second time through, chapter by chapter, the method in his madness is more apparent.

I continued to think Taleb is more a popularizer than an innovator. But even if so, that's not so shabby. He's trying to revolutionize the way we think, and the more we rehearse that, the better.

Nassim Nichol
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Mark
Feb 18, 2013 Mark rated it did not like it
Shelves: non-fiction
First, a disclaimer. I am, professionally, a statistician. I do not have a Ph.D. in my field because I feel that statisticians with Ph.D.'s are devoid of practicality and usefulness to the real world. I work at a factory where I assist engineers in better understanding how processes work and making things better. I generally feel that I make a worthwhile contribution to the world. I bought and read this book because it was critical of statisticians. I do not believe in surrounding myself with ...more
Will
Aug 08, 2008 Will rated it it was ok
This review will be comprised of two parts: a review of the ideas presented and a review of the way in which it is written

(A) The ideas

There is no question here, Taleb is an erudite and intelligent scholar. His take on epistomology and the scientific method breathe fresh air into the subject and gloss it with some 21st century context.

It would be difficult for me to overstate the importance of the black swan problem in modern life and the degree to which we are, as societies, unaware of its impa
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Daniel
Aug 23, 2008 Daniel rated it it was ok
I stopped reading this because the author is so pompous and annoying.
Bonnie
Mar 15, 2010 Bonnie rated it did not like it
Shelves: nonfiction
This felt like it was trying to be the next The Tipping Point or Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything and just failed spectacularly, on all counts. Most importantly, perhaps, was that it was dull and a chore to read. In the little footnotes suggesting a chapter was unneccessary for a nontechnical reader and could be skipped (read: you are too dumb to understand this chapter, so don't even bother), like Chapter 15, I gladly took his advice because it meant one le ...more
Ben
Apr 08, 2008 Ben rated it did not like it
Shelves: shit
If you skipped your Systems, Statistics, or Random Variables classes in college, or if you think you know more than everyone else on Wall Street, then read this book. It will reaffirm what you already know. To the rest of you: this book will reaffirm what you thought you knew when you were 5 or 6...with an updated vocabulary.

I put this book down after the first chapter, but thought I would give it another chance, that I was being unfair. When I read the second chapter (which is a metaphor for w
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Rob
Mar 18, 2009 Rob rated it did not like it
A lot of blogs said a lot of nice things about this book, and from this I conclude that most of those bloggers either A) strictly read the executive summary or B) only read other bloggers. This is a pretty terrible book, and while it has one or two good ideas, they are better and more rigorously expressed in books like "Sway" or "The Drunkard's Walk" than they are in this shameless exercise in self promotion.

The fact that the author displays a limited understanding of the topic, and tends to lum
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Ebtihal Abuali
الفكرة المحورية لهذا الكتاب هي انك عاجز عن التكهن، وأيا تكن النظريات الاحصائية وحساب الاحتمالات الذي تعتمده، فما لم يكن يضع العشوائية والتشككية في الحسبان فهو لا يعول عليه. نحن نعيش بمفاهيم (وبرمجة) تحاول اقناعنا بقدرتنا على التعامل مع عالم بقوانين ثابتة، عندما لا تكون هذه هي الحقيقة. لأن البجعات السوداء، أو الحدث الاقل توقعا بل الذي يقع خارج نطاق كل احتمالاتنا يمكن ان يحدث (موجبا كان او سالبا).

هل تحتاج هذه الفكرة الى 600 صفحة لشرحها. لا أعتقد. شعرت ان الكاتب بالغ في الاسترسال في السرد وهو يشير
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Misha
Dec 27, 2012 Misha rated it it was ok
Shelves: tried-to-read
This book is a weird mix of novel ideas, bragging, and pseudo-science.

Taleb makes a strong case for his theory of black swans. It's an interesting and valuable theory but it's also one that could be communicated in a short conversation and does not need a whole book to contain it.

Taleb fills the rest of the pages by bragging about his own success and ridiculing established philosophers, economists, and anyone else he can think of. I'm not in any position to judge his opinions of these people, b
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ُEmanMarhoon
كل حدث في حياتنا له سبب ما .. نحاول دائما ان نتكهن بالمستقبل بحكم طبيعتنا البشرية .. لا نريد ان نفاجأ بحدث يقلب حياتنا رأسا على عقب لكن هل نفلح في ذلك .. في كتابه البجعة السوداء حاول نسيم طالب في حوالي 500 صفحه ايضاح ماهيه هذا الحدث وكيف ان تكهناتنا لن تمنع وقوعه ذلك اننا لا نلعب وفق قواعد اللعبه كما ينبغي حيث اننا جبلنا على التفكير النمطي فنحن وان كنا شكاكين الا ان شكنا ليس بالقدر الكافي الذي يمنع عنا وقوع مثل هذه الاحداث .. اقيم الكتاب بثلاث نجمات فهو رغم كونه ممتع الا ان تشعب الاحداث وصعوبتها ...more
Todd
Dec 09, 2007 Todd rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: Nerds
I only read the first 13 pages of this book, plus the prologue, but that was enough. In the first few pages he name-drops people like Umberto Eco and Nabokov, tells us about people who were rather unknown five years ago (but forgets to tell us that they are still rather unknown now), and compares himself to people in history who are/were actually influential. For a man who claims he is not writing an autobiography, he really works hard to impress the reader. He adds little bits of information in ...more
Gendou
Mar 06, 2016 Gendou rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction, humor
This book profoundly nasty and intellectually demented. Taleb a classic science denier; oscillating between anti-science and pseudo-intellectual arguments. When some scientist says something he likes, he misrepresents it to fit his narrative. When the scientific consensus is against him, he cries grand conspiracy theory or slanders the methods of science. His argumentation in this book is like a case study in logical fallacies and crank red flags.

Special pleading.

Ignoring disconfirming evidence
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Adih Respati
Black Swan, huge-impact improbable events (the success of google, attack of 9/11, invention of internet), shows that social sciences fail to predict various events (behaviors inculuded) by,and so far by merely , usingGaussian "bell curve" approach. The use of mathematics in social sciences overestimates what we know (observed past events)and underestimates what we don't (probable future events): too little science papers succeeded to make (near) accurate predictions; and successful inventions ...more
David
Dec 04, 2007 David rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-in-2007
Nassim Taleb's earlier book "Fooled by Randomness" was enormously successful - deservedly so, in my opinion. Unfortunately, this second book is a complete disappointment. Despite its length, it adds very little of interest to the material in the first book. Much of it is a rambling and indulgent rehash of ideas already developed adequately in the first book. If you are looking for fresh insight, spare your money.

Taleb is a very smart guy. In the first book, he wrote fluidly, clearly, without con
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nanto
nyari buku hegel malah dapat buku ini yang terjemahannya. ada beberapa kalimatnya yang menggelitik maka tertarik deh.:D

*sampe bab 1*
Ide buku ini menarik.

Black Swan adalah sebuah metafora yang pertama saya pahami dari kajian filsafat ilmu dulu sewaktu kuliah. Karl Raimund Poper menggunakan metafora itu untuk menjelaskan konsepsinya tentang falsifikasi. Di dunia ini, manusia cenderung percaya untuk mengatakan angsa putih adalah kebenaran. Keguncangan pada kebenaran itu akan terjadi jika ada angsa
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Nadaalaali
Jan 13, 2016 Nadaalaali rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
فكرة الكتاب تتمحور حول أن اعتقادنا بأن باستطاعتنا بشكل موثوق التكهن بالأحداث مبالغ فيه بشدة، وأن هذه المبالغة مدعومة من علماء رياضيات واحصاء ومن يساندهم مما يجعل الركون الى هذه الثقة أشد خطرا.

ونحن _عامة الناس _ نعتقد ان وضع معظم البيانات التي تحصلنا عليها تاريخيا ورسمها في منحنى بياني جرسي يتيح لنا التكهن بالمستقبل، في حين أن هذا المنحنى يسقط تماما بالتنبؤ بحدث غير متوقع لأن نسبة وقوعه تكون رقما صغير ويساره العديد من الأصفار.

يحاول نسيم أن يلفت انتباهنا أن الأحداث غير المتوقعة لا ينبغي أن نسقطها
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Neil
Mar 26, 2009 Neil rated it really liked it
Shelves: mba, philosophy, logic
Okay, let's see if I got it straight...

An anti-academic academic weaves a non-narrative narrative about predicting the unpredictable into the theory that rigid theories are bad.

Oh, and count on things you can't conceive of happening happening.

Something like that.

Taleb's observations on the expectations and biases we hold, especially when estimating risk or uncertainty, are pretty dead on.

His key practical point is about the need for a NON-parametric look at any situation in which low-probabilit
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Hadrian
Sometimes you can't predict when things happen. Sometimes past evidence does not necessarily predict future trends. I paraphrase David Mamet: Let me buy Nassim Taleb a pack of gum, he'll show you how to chew it.
Rene Stein
Jun 26, 2015 Rene Stein rated it liked it
Poněkud rozvleklé a opakující se vyprávění, které by se dalo zrekapitulovat:

1) "Shit happens" ať děláte, co děláte, to je Talebovo negativní neznámé neznámo. Neboli - chcete-li klid, připravujete se v oddělení řízení rizik, které je plné uctívačů jistot, jen na problémy, které spíš nenastanou než nastanou, protože riziko je pojmenované nebezpečí známé už z minulosti, ale lidi, society i korporace rozvrátí dnes spíš to, co ostří a spokojení fotrové od rodin v oddělení rizik nestihli zkrotit ani v
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Dolly
Dec 11, 2009 Dolly rated it liked it
Recommends it for: fans of Richard Dawkins, James Gleick, and Malcolm Gladwell
This is an interesting book. I like the idea of empirical skepticism, but I'm not sure that I will ever be able to embrace it wholly. I am not afraid to admit that I like patterns, I like predictability, I like stability...I understand so much more now about our erroneous desire to make things fit Gaussian bell curves, even when its inappropriate to do so. I will never read a mutual fund prospectus or annual report the same way again nor will I ever trust an economic forecast. But I think that ...more
Sabrina
Nov 26, 2007 Sabrina rated it it was ok
Perhaps the problem was that I began with high expectations.

Taleb, who I presume can understand Arabic at its most elementary level, regularly refers to Muslims as \"Moslems,\" which irritates me to no end.

The book became tedious and self-contradictory at times, and I felt that it had an engrossing theory, yes, but it was poorly executed. The prose did not capture my interest, and his examples seemed to imitate (badly) the anecdotal style of Blink or Freakonomics.

His postulation is not original
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Jimmy Ele
Jul 25, 2015 Jimmy Ele rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This book is like a nice cup of dark roasted coffee. A bit bitter for those who are unfamiliar with the Black Swan brand of uncertainty, yet disconcertingly alerting for those who have encountered this rare blend. The Black Swan glides through deep philosophical discussions and clever humor as effortlessly as its namesake. I was deeply enthralled by Nassim Nicholas Taleb's depth of erudition and wisdom concerning the philosophy of uncertainty.

The second edition of which I was privileged to read
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Riku Sayuj
Feb 13, 2012 Riku Sayuj rated it really liked it
Landmark book for me as it pointed me to Chaos.
'Izzat Radzi

Terus terang, kalau hujah penulis diambil kira dan dipandang serius; ia akan meruntuhkan disiplin ilmu statistik dan kebarangkalian konvensional sedia ada.
Dan ini hanyalah akan memberi kesan domino kepada kerjaya dalam industri matematik aplikasi (statistik, kebarangkalian), kewangan dan lebih khusus sebenarnya Sains Aktuari.

'... Several hundred thousand students in business schools and social science departments from Singapore to Urbana-Champaign, as well as people in the business world, contin
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« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
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  • Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World
  • When Markets Collide: Investment Strategies for the Age of Global Economic Change
  • Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software
  • The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood
  • Traders, Guns & Money: Knowns and Unknowns in the Dazzling World of Derivatives
  • Devil Take the Hindmost: A History of Financial Speculation
  • Fooling Some of the People All of the Time: A Long Short (and Now Complete) Story
  • Manias, Panics, and Crashes: A History of Financial Crises
  • Future Babble: Why Expert Predictions Fail - and Why We Believe Them Anyway
  • The Wisdom of Crowds
  • The Age Of Turbulence: Adventures In A New World
  • My Life as a Quant: Reflections on Physics and Finance
  • The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves
  • This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly
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Taleb has devoted his life to problems of uncertainty, probability, and knowledge. He spent two decades as a trader before becoming a philosophical essayist and academic researcher in probability theory. Although he now spends most of his time either working in intense seclusion in his study, or as a flâneur meditating in cafés across the planet, he is currently Distinguished Professor of Risk ...more
More about Nassim Nicholas Taleb...

Other Books in the Series

Incerto (4 books)
  • Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets
  • The Bed of Procrustes: Philosophical and Practical Aphorisms
  • Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder

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“The writer Umberto Eco belongs to that small class of scholars who are encyclopedic, insightful, and nondull. He is the owner of a large personal library (containing thirty thousand books), and separates visitors into two categories: those who react with “Wow! Signore, professore dottore Eco, what a library you have ! How many of these books have you read?” and the others - a very small minority - who get the point that a private library is not an ego-boosting appendage but a research tool. Read books are far less valuable than unread ones. The library should contain as much of what you don’t know as your financial means, mortgage rates and the currently tight real-estate market allows you to put there. You will accumulate more knowledge and more books as you grow older, and the growing number of unread books on the shelves will look at you menancingly. Indeed, the more you know, the larger the rows of unread books. Let us call this collection of unread books an antilibrary.” 205 likes
“It has been more profitable for us to bind together in the wrong direction than to be alone in the right one. Those who have followed the assertive idiot rather than the introspective wise person have passed us some of their genes. This is apparent from a social pathology: psychopaths rally followers.” 139 likes
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