The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable
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The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable

3.81 of 5 stars 3.81  ·  rating details  ·  29,685 ratings  ·  2,136 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...more
Hardcover, 480 pages
Published April 17th 2007 by Random House (first published 2007)
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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
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...more
Jun 11, 2008 Aaron rated it 3 of 5 stars 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...more
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...more
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...more
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...more
Apr 08, 2008 Ben rated it 1 of 5 stars
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...more
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
I stopped reading this because the author is so pompous and annoying.
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...more
Dec 09, 2007 Todd rated it 1 of 5 stars 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
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 ar...more
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...more
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...more
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 t...more
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 'y...more
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...more
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...more
Have you read a book recently that blew your mind every other page? Because that's what "Black Swan" did to me. Basically, Taleb takes everything you learned in Econ and Statistics 101 and throws it out the window (which made me feel better, because I didn't do so well in Stats).

There's only one main idea in this book: events in society are becoming increasingly random and unpredictable. We've moved from a world of averages to a world of extremes, and we have no way of guessing what those extre...more
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...more
Riku Sayuj
Landmark book for me as it pointed me to Chaos.
Duffy Pratt
We don't know what we don't know. Pretending that we do can cause all kinds of harm.

Taleb takes those basic ideas and spins them out in many, many directions. For me, despite his self-satisfaction and tendancy towards being insufferable, I enjoyed the writing. More, I like the ideas. They are ideas that seem simple, but are very easy to forget or willfully ignore.

Here's an extrapolation from the book. I've wondered why Science Fiction as a genre seems to have failed. Taleb argues that history, a...more
Bernard Chen
This was my first encounter with Nassim Taleb. The writing has a hint of condescension that would be more irritating if his points weren't so interesting. This guy is either great to have at dinner or an arrogant ass. Probably both on the same night.

The basic idea behind the book is that the observational methods that underpin science can't prove the non-existence of an object/event. To make matters worse, human cognition is driven by heuristics instead of perfect memorization of data, so we hav...more
This book is in my top 10 list now. I'm adding it to my Books-That-Changed-My-Thinking shelf here, although more accurately it should be Books-That-Clarified-And-Informed-My-Thinking. I won't go much into what it's about as I'm sure there are plenty of reviews covering that. For me personally it was a wonderful experience because Taleb, through the deep research allowed by being a gentleman scholar (unfettered from academic career or financial constraints), explores a philosophy toward which I i...more
After 4 pages of the introduction:

If there is one thing I hate more than a salesman, it's an evangelistic salesman. If your stuff works, it sells itself, after all.

Loathsomely written propagandish style - sort of like van Daniken except that I imagine van Daniken knew something about his area. This is some sort of trader, who seems to think, as traders so often do, that they know everything in the whole world that matters. I imagine the sort of person who is so ignorant it is impossible for him...more
Carol. [All cynic, all the time]
Not as overbearingly arrogant as others claim; in fact, often very self depreciating.

More seriously, his writing style is terribly confusing, made worse by my own unfamiliarity with the subject and his insistence on personal jargon standing in for concepts. Very anectdotal as well as making use of "thought experiments" to illustrate concepts that could have done with more explanation and less story. Yes, I get his point that stories help us learn, but I would argue that stories work best as anal...more
the books takes you on a very complex journey but at the end, brings you down to point one. One would say, why the hell did i went through the entire journey when I what I wanted to see could be verbally explained in one line...this book even though has some good things in parts but on the whole it portrays that all the theories of science, economics, business studies are rubbish and we should only focus on the so called greatest subject of philosophy.
Mike  Goodson
Life changing book. "The first step to wisdom is knowing what we don't know" may sound like a line from the 1970s TV show "Kung Fu," but it is an important theme in NNT's book. It's hard for me (being a product of an MBA program where we learned to look at everything as a bell curve) to fully embrace his ideas, but I feel a better man for knowing his views.

Uncertainty is a big part of my job as a financial advisor (fee only, no commissions) and NNT's perspectives are useful in my work. Taken to...more
The Black Swan

This is one of those “must read” books that many more people will claim to have read than will actually slog through. Like with Fooled by Randomness, Taleb takes many more pages than necessary to get his important points across. Those points are that we have incredibly poor skills at estimating extreme events, we regularly abuse historical statistics in ways that set us up to fail miserably, and we should have a great distrust of most planning processes. The ultimate message is pos...more
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 or 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...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
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  • Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk
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  • Fortune's Formula: The Untold Story of the Scientific Betting System That Beat the Casinos and Wall Street
  • When Genius Failed: The Rise and Fall of Long-Term Capital Management
  • The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home
  • A Demon of Our Own Design: Markets, Hedge Funds, and the Perils of Financial Innovation
  • The Quants: How a New Breed of Math Whizzes Conquered Wall Street and Nearly Destroyed It
  • Seeking Wisdom: From Darwin To Munger
  • Fault Lines: How Hidden Fractures Still Threaten the World Economy
  • Manias, Panics, and Crashes: A History of Financial Crises
  • Thinking Strategically: The Competitive Edge in Business, Politics, and Everyday Life
  • A Random Walk Down Wall Street
  • Adapt: Why Success Always Starts with Failure
  • Numbers Rule Your World: The Hidden Influence of Probabilities and Statistics on Everything You Do
  • Devil Take the Hindmost:  A History of Financial Speculation
  • Currency Wars: The Making of the Next Global Crisis
  • Margin of Safety: Risk-Averse Value Investing Strategies for the Thoughtful Investor
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 Eng...more
More about Nassim Nicholas Taleb...
Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder The Bed of Procrustes: Philosophical and Practical Aphorisms Dynamic Hedging: Managing Vanilla and Exotic Options Force Et Fragilitéréflexions Philosophiques Et Empiriques

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“It has been more profitable for us to bind together in the wrong direction than to be alone in the right one.” 85 likes
“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.” 79 likes
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