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Incerto #2

The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable

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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 everything about our world, from the rise of religions to events in our own personal lives.

Why do we not acknowledge the phenomenon of black swans until after they occur? Part of the answer, according to Taleb, is that humans are hardwired to learn specifics when they should be focused on generalities.

We concentrate on things we already know and time and time again fail to take into consideration what we don’t know. We are, therefore, unable to truly estimate opportunities, too vulnerable to the impulse to simplify, narrate, and categorize, and not open enough to rewarding those who can imagine the “impossible.”

For years, Taleb has studied how we fool ourselves into thinking we know more than we actually do. We restrict our thinking to the irrelevant and inconsequential, while large events continue to surprise us and shape our world. Now, in this revelatory book, Taleb explains everything we know about what we don’t know. He offers surprisingly simple tricks for dealing with black swans and benefiting from them.

Elegant, startling, and universal in its applications The Black Swan will change the way you look at the world. Taleb is a vastly entertaining writer, with wit, irreverence, and unusual stories to tell. He has a polymathic command of subjects ranging from cognitive science to business to probability theory.

The Black Swan is a landmark book – itself a black swan.

The book also contains a 4-page glossary; 19 pages of notes; and, a 28-page bibliography in addition to an index.

366 pages, Hardcover

First published April 17, 2007

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About the author

Nassim Nicholas Taleb

78 books12k followers
Nassim Nicholas Taleb spent 21 years as a risk taker (quantitative trader) before becoming a flaneur and researcher in philosophical, mathematical and (mostly) practical problems with probability. 

Taleb is the author of a multivolume essay, the Incerto (The Black Swan, Fooled by Randomness, Antifragile, and Skin in the Game) an investigation of opacity, luck, uncertainty, probability, human error, risk, and decision making when we don’t understand the world, expressed in the form of a personal essay with autobiographical sections, stories, parables, and philosophical, historical, and scientic discussions in nonover lapping volumes that can be accessed in any order.

In addition to his trader life, Taleb has also written, as a backup of the Incerto, more than 50 scholarly papers in statistical physics, statistics, philosophy, ethics, economics, international affairs, and quantitative finance, all around the notion of risk and probability.

Taleb is currently Distinguished Professor of Risk Engineering at NYU's Tandon School of Engineering (only a quarter time position). His current focus is on the properties of systems that can handle disorder ("antifragile").

Taleb believes that prizes, honorary degrees, awards, and ceremonialism debase knowledge by turning it into a spectator sport.

See Wikipedia for more details.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 6,604 reviews
Profile Image for Aaron.
61 reviews78 followers
June 11, 2008
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 stupid or blinkered to follow his argument. He's contemptuous towards entire disciplines (economics, law, social science) without making much attempt to engage with the concepts he's critiquing beyond the broadest levels of generality. He's got a huge chip on his shoulder towards the scientific/academic establishment (especially the Nobel committee - try taking a shot every time he makes an off-hand, tangential attack on Nobel and you've made your Friday night). Worst of all, he's endlessly digressive, and couches his digressions in the language of capricious genius rather than simple bad writing (he hits the occasional sweetnote with these tangents, but if anyone else who has read this thing cover to cover wanted to put a bullet in Yvgenia, feel free to step on up).

He's hard to like.

It's unfortunate, because at the core of all of the go-nowhere anecdotes and borderline psychobabble is a good analysis on how people are psychologically and socially ill-equipped to handle unexpected outlier events (which he persistently, desperately refers to as "Black Swans", one of approximately 3000 new bits of not-too-essential terminology he's trying to appropriate for himself) and can't learn from our mistakes. It's a wonderful theory for a book one third the length of this one, and I'm happy to admit that some of the better moments were probably missed by this reader simply because of the exhaustion of filtering through the surplusage.

I am sure that the failure to give this book five or six stars (the possibility of a six star rating might itself be something of a Black Swan) is due to my own marginal intellect. The author has made it clear that any other explanation would be entirely unpredictable.
Profile Image for Nick.
183 reviews134 followers
August 11, 2008
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 stronger because of it.

However, this along with other problems are mere quibbles relative to the strengths of this book (and, I think it's worth noting that many of the negative reviews on this site base their hostile reactions to Taleb on just such insignificant trifles.) The Black Swan deals with the fascinating topic of the nature uncertainty and approaches it from a variety of intellectual angles, mainly the psychological blocks that we are both born with and have created for ourselves that prevent our understanding of the improbable: the narrative fallacy and the problem of induction (the tenuous relationship of cause and effect); our reliance on flawed mathematical models; the expect problem. Each one of these discussions reinforces his main argument but captivate independently as they are insights to the way we process information.

Taleb also references numerous thinkers that are not as well known in the popular consciousness and provides wonderful anecdotes and examples from their life and work that illustrate his points and entertain the reader.

Many other reviewers comment on the Taleb's unique style: arrogant and aggressive. Just because he's arrogant, however, doesn't mean he's wrong--this man has spent most of his life dedicated to this subject and it shows. And his antagonistic style seems appropriate--it's hard to go against the establishment, even if your goal is truth; people aren't going to believe you. He attacks the Nobel Prize in Economics because according to him, the financial models created by the prizewinners that that Swedish committee has rewarded have done a great deal of harm to people's understanding of the true economic risks involved. Preposterous? Sacrilege? These are the exclamations of narrow-minded thinkers who have yet to examine the evidence thoroughly.

I, personally, found Taleb's style to be amusing and engaging. It reflects a true passion and dedication to the beliefs he expounds in the book, beliefs that are worth some attention. If we live in a time of uncertainty, it's a good thing to understand what that really means.
188 reviews36 followers
June 21, 2008
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 statistics and at the same time eviscerating the nobel prize winners who got us to where we are today.

While the author has valid points, his writing style oscillates between boring, repetitive, and just plain bad. Plus he uses the pronouns “I” and “me” more often than any other author I have read. Perhaps he is using his gigantic ego to prove the existence of fat tails in the standard bell curve and thus exhibit directly the central thesis which is that the Gaussian curve does not hold up in our modern “extremistan” society (and trust me that that sentence is funny if you read the book).

The author does understand his limitation to some degree and even suggests skipping certain chapters, though to be honest, the chapters he recommends skipping I found to be the best in the book.

I do recommend this for the ideas. It is worth a read/skim for anyone interested in statistics, economics, managing money, or just generally intellectually curious.
Profile Image for Greg.
32 reviews7 followers
August 30, 2008
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 verbage to get his good ideas. A central idea is that we assume everything in the world is Gaussian and then we base all our decisions about life on our Gaussian models. But the significant, life-changing, society-changing, events are outside the Gaussian. Things like 9-11. They belong to Extremestan, not Mediocristan.

The ideas are interesting. Many are quite compelling. But it really seems Taleb's main point is "everyone else is an idiot." It seems the details why are secondary to that point.

I did find quite useful a good line of thought regarding the importance of narrative in grasping truth. We are so drawn to narrative, that all retained "true" facts must fit into our constructed narrative. Other data are ignored or made to fit. We need to be on the watch for data that disproves rather than confirms our story. And perhaps we ought to learn better how to understand and speak in story. Mmm - God himself, in the person of Jesus, communicated truth in parables - narratives! No one else seems to have caught on. Except Taleb, of course.
Profile Image for Jan Rice.
522 reviews444 followers
September 15, 2015
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 Nicholas Taleb is working the same territory as Daniel Kahneman in Thinking, Fast and Slow. While they both have us investigating our thinking, for Kahneman, it's to make us own up, while Taleb has more direct emphasis on avoiding disaster.

He would like for us to realize our overuse of normal-curve thinking, which makes us minimize risk and have no expectations out of the ordinary: like the turkey whose experience all goes to show how human beings love him and care about him and prove it by feeding him--until Thanksgiving day arrives and he's dinner.

The normal curve tells us that the further out from the mean we go, the rarity of unusual events rapidly increases. Fine--when it applies. We are not going to meet any 20-foot tall people or anyone living to 150 years old. But the normal curve often doesn't apply. We can't predict which books will be best sellers or how how the sales count will go on one of them. We can't predict when a war will occur or just how one will transpire.

The world is not fair. Unfairness and inequality are no epiphenomena but part and parcel of reality.

Even in evolution, the fittest survive, thrive, and have more offspring. Take writing: before literacy, every town crier and performer had his day. With written methods, all the little guys are out of work. Then, one book may become a bestseller. It leaves even the other books in the dust. And when the author of the bestseller writes another book, it'll get more attention than those who didn't write a bestseller.

When we think normal curves apply but they don't, we are confusing what the world is like with how we would like it to be. We are shoving reality into the Procrustean bed of our idealized thinking. That distorts our vision of reality. By keeping an open mind, at least, we won't be walking blindly into risk. We can't prevent the unexpected, but we can at least turn the black swans into grey swans.

We are like the 13th fairy at the Sleeping Beauty's christening. We can't do away with the angry fairy's curse, but we can mitigate it. Grey swan, not black.

The difficulty with many kinds of prognosticators in our world is that they are spinning theories that purport to predict, but their theories are stories, and their stories connect the plot points and only sound as though they are predictive. We are lulled or, even worse, misled. We listen according to our preferred belief system. We listen to what we want to hear: confirmatory listening. We actively cherry pick reality to make it fit what we want to believe. The solution? Try the opposite, finding something that doesn't fit. A plethora of confirmatory evidence is exactly what the turkey had before Thanksgiving.

Taleb lauds two unexpected types of practitioners: military people and financial managers. They will know if their predictions are wrong or right. If they are wrong, they'll have to face the music. Their predictions matter. Not so the world of talking heads and stuffed shirts: they just adjust their stories and keep on going.

What those stories are, are predictions of the past.

If you see an ice cube sitting on a table you can predict the future: it will melt into a little puddle of water. But if you see a puddle on the table, and that's all you see, there could be a thousand stories of what it is and how it came to be there. The correct explanation may be 1001--or one which will never be found.

It could be that angry old fairy, melted.

As I said, most of the stories are not explanations. But theories are sticky. Once you have one you have a hard time seeing beyond it (remembering that sometimes no theory is best, if the theory is wrong). So, he recommends an empirical approach with art and craft, a less grand theory, and always an eye toward outcomes.

Right at the end it occurred to me that this is religion. He tells you how to sustain yourself in the absence of worldly support, how to stand up to others and say your piece, how to wait and be patient, and about the merits of surrounding yourself with like-minded souls.

To close, a rousing rendition of Kipling's If

He can't teach like Kahneman, but he gets it said.

Profile Image for Daniel.
57 reviews10 followers
August 24, 2008
I stopped reading this because the author is so pompous and annoying.
Profile Image for Ben.
131 reviews18 followers
December 9, 2019
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 what Taleb thinks is him) I puked in my shirt. This man is the most conceited person I think I've discovered through reading his garbage hypothesis. If I met Taleb, I would recommend that he read some other theories on random variables (why does he use Gaussian distribution as the only example of random distribution?), systems theory, and the scientific theory. He apparently was sleeping though these discussions.

So, not only was this book difficult to read due to the fact that Taleb was obsessed with how right he was, but the missing details and theories and general disregard for EVERYTHING that happened before him forced me to close this book, hand it to my roommate to sell on Amazon, take a few days to cool off, and then write this review.

Thank God I am not an editor.
Profile Image for Gendou.
585 reviews261 followers
March 6, 2016
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 like the exceptions to the professed rule.

* "Certain professionals ... don't know more about their subject matter than the general population." Except when they do.
* "Our minds do not seem made to think and introspect." Except when they do.
* "Few reward acts of prevention." Except when they do.
* "No technologies of note came from design and planning." Except when they do.
* "The bell curve ignores large deviations, it cannot handle them." Except when used in statistics.
* "Stories are far more potent than ideas." Except when they're not.
* "Our world is dominated by the extreme, the unknown, and the very improbable." Except when it's not.
* "Reality is not Mediocristan [Gaussian]." Except when it is.
* "We tend to forget what we know." Except when we don't.
* "There is no such animal as corroborative evidence." Except that there is.

Straw man.

To see this logical fallacy in action, simply reply "Speak for yourself, asshole!" to each.

* "Platonicity is what makes us think we understand more than we actually do."
* "People in the classroom ... don't realize what's important, and what's not."
* "Academics in abstract disciplines depend on one another's opinion without external checks."
* "We lack imagination and repress it in others."
* "We spend out time engaged in small talk, focusing on the known and the repeated."
* "We tend to treat our knowledge as personal property, to be protected and defended."
* "People talk about correlation as if it were something real."
* "Scientists may be in the business of laughing at their predecessors."
* "My readers and I are laughing at the present state of social knowledge."
* "Hume ... puts to shame almost all current thinkers, and certainly the entire German graduate curriculum."
* "Statisticians, it has been shown, tend to leave their brains in the classroom and engage in the most trivial inferential errors once they are let out on the streets."

Grand conspiracy theory.

* "Scholars are judged mostly on how many times their work is referenced in other people's work... it's an I quote you, you quote me type of business." The first claim is only partially true. The reputation of an author is judged by their published work, but the products of science are ideas. These ideas are, in the scientific literature, judged primarily by their content. In science, a humble patent clerk can become the biggest name in theoretical physics by having the right idea. The accusation of tit-for-tat citation is ludicrous. Speak for yourself, Taleb!

* "Chapter 15: The Bell Curve, That Great Intellectual Fraud." He rails against misuse of the bell curve by those "who wear dark suits" without ever giving a single god damn specific example. He accuses whole fields of study, like economics, of being rife with mathematical theatrics. If that's true I'd love to read about it. But he offers no evidence for this, and is more guilty of this particular offense than any person I know. http://www.fooledbyrandomness.com/pp2...

* "In my mind mathematicians, trained for certainties, had no business dealing in randomness." By which he means non-Gaussian statistics. Which is an area of mathematics. Very much the mathematician's business!

Bullshit jargon

* "Twin tail" = bell curve.
* "Headwind" = uncertainty of outliers in a power law.
* "Scalables" AKA "Mandelbrotian" = scale free models.
* "Mediocristan" vs. "Extremistan" = Gaussian vs. power laws.
* "Silent evidence" = publication bias, etc.
* "Nerd knowledge" = things Taleb disagrees with.
* "Confirmation problem" = problem of induction.
Profile Image for Bonnie.
1,282 reviews116 followers
March 16, 2010
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 less chapter to slog through. I finished it out of a perverse desire to finish things, nothing more.

My biggest complaint with the book, though, was that the author came across as a giant tool. He loves to use sarcastic quotes to criticize things like "prestigious" institutions (despite mentioning multiple times that he himself attended the prestigious Wharton School). He also often makes unecessary--and often derogatory--asides in parantheses (I do the same thing, but I'm not a published author who has things like an editor and a paycheck)and snipes at newspapers, the French, Harold Bloom, academics, CEOs, MBAs/businessmen (but did I mention he attended Wharton?), the rich, the Nobel Prize, etc. Whether his hatreds are justified or not, the way he does it comes across as terribly juvenile and he never misses a cheap shot. He appears to see himself as some kind of persecuted genius, taking on the establishment. He loves nothing more than describing how some so-called "expert" goes apopleptic when confronted with his brilliant Black Swan idea (which he keeps reminding you he came up with at the age of 22) and fantasizes about dropping rats down overly serious people's shirts to watch them squirm (is he actually 12 or just a bastard? who knows).

Overall he comes across as arrogant, condescending, smug, self-righteous and incredibly pretentious, the kind of person you get trapped in conversation with at a party who will either goad and/or mock you for his own amusment or bore you with self-indulgent pontifications that include name-dropping obscure writers to impress upon you how smart he is.

He also seems to be something of a failed/aspiring novelist, as he decides to make up the character of Yevgenia Krasnova, a fictional novelist whose book was a Black Swan, something that no one wanted to publish but then became a huge hit. Why does he have to make her up? The publishing industry is littered with these people, it would be simple to use a real person. But not only does he make her up (and does not even bother to tell you she is fake until the following chapter) but he gives several pages to her biography, invents fake friends and THEIR biographies and then comes back to her AGAIN, all with no real relevance. These fictional characters could've been cut out entirely or replaced with real people and not affected the book at all. They are simply another one of his petty self-indulgences.

I could have saved time, money and my blood pressure level and probably been more entertained by simply reading the book's entry on Wikipedia. The central idea is good, but the execution oh-so-isn't.
Profile Image for Ted.
515 reviews744 followers
October 9, 2016
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 followed. The problem with all their quantitative analysis was, as Taleb rightly points out, that it assumed that everything that could happen in the markets belonged to the domain of bell-curve events, and that hence probabilities could be computed for any possible market outcome. But "Black Swan" events (very rare, not even things we think about happening, and not linked to the factors that determine day to day market swings) do occur, they are of course unpredictable, and they can have massive effects. Some sorts of unpredictable events (such as unexpected conflict flareups, deaths of influential national leaders) are not Black Swan events because they are events we know about, and they are not really unexpected - only the timing is in doubt. Others, the real Black Swans, such as 9/11 and the derivatives bubble, have effects that play out over years.

But really, other than as a cautionary tale for those whose job it is to predict (unpredictable) things on a daily basis, these observations probably don't surprise most people who have thought much about the nature of reality and our grasp of the future. No one that I know owns a crystal ball. Without one even broad outlines of the future, that we believe are pretty certain, still have an element of risk/uncertainty; and perhaps a more significant element than we realize.

As the esteemed Donald (not Trump, the other one) pointed out, in one of his rare truly insightful comments, there are the unknowns that we know about, and the unknowns that we don't know about. It's the latter part of reality where the Black Swans live. (Of course, they also live in Australia, which is how the phrase got its meaning.)
23 reviews2 followers
August 8, 2008
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 impact. However, anybody with half a background in statistics, chaos theory or the philosophy of science will have encountered most of the concepts in this book before and will have cogitated at length over them. Still, Taleb's text acts both as a refresher course and a collection of intelligent new perspectives on the subject which make for a decent think-a-thon. For that reason somebody with an interest should give this book a go.

(B) The execution

This book could have been a third of its length. Taleb comes across as insufferable and fustian. His one-page-per-topic writing style flits between ideas without exploring or explaining them properly. The narrative is disjoint and underdeveloped. Only at the end of the book does he even begin to make some positive suggestions for replacing the intellectual institutions he (rightly) criticises.

Anybody who has read Richard Dawkins will be familiar with the arrogance with which Taleb states his claims and dismisses the thinking of others. It is almost enough to make one toss the book away.

So I gave this book two stars. I valued the content but it is most definitely not groundbreaking and it most definitely is not well written.

'Fooled by randomness' is slightly better.
Profile Image for Rob.
17 reviews21 followers
March 18, 2009
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 lump everything he doesn't understand into the same bucket would be forgivable from an author possessed of wit and charm. Sadly, we get neither, and no small portion of the book is dedicated to elaborations on the author's high opinion of himself and low opinions of virtually everyone else.

If you are thinking about reading the book because you've heard the term "A Black Swan" in an interesting context, I can only attempt to wave my arms in frantic warning. The eponymous black swan is an event which is highly unlikely to happen, so unlikely as to be unpredictable, but which happens anyway because when a lot of things happen (and they do) then it becomes nearly certain that some of them will be wildly unlikely. The greater the range of possible outcomes, the more disruptive this black swan will be. In short, if you grasp normal distribution, you already know this.

This is very much an "Everyone But Me Is Stupid" sort of book, and as such it is guaranteed to have a certain appeal to readers who share that sentiment. If that's the case then it's probably a good read, but otherwise I really strongly endorse any other book on the topic. Either of two I mention (Brafman & Brafman's 'Sway' and Mlodinow's 'The Drunkard's Walk') will be more informative and vastly more entertaining.
Profile Image for Seema Singh.
49 reviews1 follower
September 5, 2019
I love reading and I rarely criticise authors. I think it takes discipline to complete a book and thus authors deserves respect. This review is my first negative one and hopefully my last. I buddy read this which was the only positive aspect. We read about a chapter a day and every time we discussed it, we would be at a loss for words. I heard such great reviews about this book highlighting that it was quite controversial. Generally i seek out anything controversial but this author is just a rebel without a cause. It was a perfect example of the dunning kruger effect (which is a concept that the author refers too in the book). About 40 % was contradictory ramblings, the other 40 % was an attack on the greatest scientists and philosophers of our time. In fact he even targets every person with an MBA. Another 10 % was about how the author knows more than anybody else in the world (he basically regurgitates known concepts and comes up with new words which he strings  together to form nonsensical statements). For someone who clearly despises statistics, he claims to understand it better than a Phd student  (i suppose its normal to spend all your valuable time becoming an expert in a subject so that you can go on to passionately discredit it). The lowest point was when he insulted autistic people encouraging them to send someone else to socialise at a party because apparently he is 'ceratin' that autistic people are incapable of socialising themselves. The last 10 % was basically a constant reminder that the bell curve and statistics in general is complete nonsense. Sorry I may have given the wrong stats (deliberately) but I'm sure that the author won't mind because who needs stats anyway. I honestly didn't see the point of the book. In the beginning of some chapters, he would agree with some mathematician or philosopher but by the end of the the very same chapter, he does a complete 360 (sorry there goes my reference to maths again). The amazing bit is that he actually uses so much of stats and science to explain his points but then goes on to discredit the very same principles. For someone who is preaching about the fact that most things can't be predicted with certainty (which is rather obvious), he is fairly 'certain' about his viewpoint. In fact he is so certain that he literally created his own aproach to randomness. If you are interested in arrogant ignorance, please read this book. This is by far the worst non fiction book I have read but it did give my friend and I plenty to laugh about so it wasn't a complete waste of time. I highly recommend reading this for pure entertainment.
Profile Image for Heidi The Reader.
1,376 reviews1,431 followers
June 23, 2019
Nassim Nicholas Taleb discusses "black swans", unexpected and life-changing events, and how life is far more uncertain than most believe it to be. He also examines, in-depth, how we fool ourselves into believing reality is otherwise by various means like confirmation bias (we look for evidence to support our existing beliefs) and narrative fallacies (the tendency to describe existence using linear stories when reality is far more complicated).

Mix in a heaping dose of storytelling and autobiographical information and you get The Black Swan.

"This combination of low predictability and large impact makes the Black Swan a great puzzle; but that is not yet the core concern of this book. Add to this phenomenon the fact that we tend to act as if it does not exist!" Prologue xxii

This is a dense read, full of philosophical references and terminology. Basically, beyond black swans having a larger impact on reality than we realize they do, this book can be simplified way down to "beware of because" and "know what you don't know".

"Beware of because" because (tee-hee) reality is far more random than most believe it to be. And we suck at predicting the future, for a variety of reasons, but partially because it is impossible to project future events from historical ones.

"Note here that I am not saying causes do not exist; do not use this argument to avoid trying to learn from history. All I am saying is that is it not so simple; be suspicious of the "because" and handle it with care — particularly in situations where you suspect silent evidence." pgs 120-121

"Silent evidence" is the information not readily apparent for whatever reason. Taleb gives an illustrative example of silent evidence from ancient history of a philosopher being presented an argument that a group of sailors survived a shipwreck because they prayed. The philosopher wonders how many of the sailors who drowned were also praying. The drowned sailors, you see, are the silent evidence.

Biologically, Taleb says, human beings are not set up to be deep thinkers and are fooled by a variety of logical fallacies. This is only a problem because, as time goes on, humanity has less running away to do from things trying to eat us and more dealing with the complexities of modern existence.

But by remembering "to know what we don't know" and understanding some of the limitations built into our brains by memory and logical fallacies, we can be prepared to make better decisions than before. Or, at least, we'll have a better grasp on how risky and unknown life is.

Anyway, this book certainly gave me a lot to think about. The part that struck me the most is when Taleb applies his black swan idea to careers and how this uncertainty applies particularly to authors and artists. For every J.K. Rowling, there will be thousands of writers who never make that break through. I started wondering how many extraordinary books I will never get to read because of this phenomena.

The author's tone throughout the book, slightly irreverent, didn't annoy me as much as it seems to have bothered other readers. I enjoyed learning a new way to look at reality, but, as I mentioned before, this is a dense read and I wouldn't consider it "fun" reading either.

It may appeal most to philosophers and anyone who wants to consider new ways to view reality.
Profile Image for carol..
1,532 reviews7,858 followers
March 21, 2011
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 analogies on the mythical or fable level, or when a single analogy perfectly illustrates an entire principle such as Scroedinger's cat.

Update: cannot get through this muddled mess of a book. Surrendering and returning to the library.
Profile Image for Claudia.
954 reviews533 followers
August 20, 2021
"We never learn."

Here I am, on a beach in Greece, trying to put my thoughts together about this book, which I have enjoyed more than I expected, but at the same time, annoyed me here and there with the writing, which is all over the place.

"We are social animals" - how true is this statement! I never realized this until I worked more than a year from home. I have always considered myself somewhat antisocial, but I was proved wrong. When I returned to the office, I felt like I was in vacation, and this feeling didn't left me yet. And I don't have problems at home, it's just that I never realize how much I missed my colleagues, friends, our jokes and interactions. Above statement has a continuation: "hell is other people" - also true, but some of them can be heaven too: a sparkling conversation, a good joke, a meaninful look, a kind gesture, a shared moment - all these can make someone feel good for a long time.

I didn't find him as arrogant as others said he is (try Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion, now that's arrogance), mainly because of his intelligence, and humor which made me snort from the beginning to the end. Yes, he's trashing some celebrities' statements in the field, but the way he does it is quite witty and hilarious (albeit not that nice).

But I have preffered to read more real examples, instead of so many thought experiments. Stories do have their roles, true, but in a non-fiction book, too many of them give the impression that the research behind the book was shallow, which clearly it was not. Mr. Taleb is highly erudite and my impression is that he wanted to convey to the reader as much info as possible, which, on one hand, made him repetitive, and on the other, clogged the narration. But he made his point very clear: Black Swan is an unpredictible event with an extreme impact on the world and/or oneself's life, and he does a good job demonstrating it. In relation to it, there are highly interesting topics on luck, uncertainty, probability, and prectictibily - you may be surprised by all the examples provided.

I'm not a philosophy fan, nor economics, and read (by choice) very few books on it; almost everyone today is a philosopher and has a lot of advices for the others. However, the author conveys his ideas and expertise in relation to other sciences, which from my PoV, I have found to be very refreshing, reliable, and accurate. I don't pretend to have advanced economics studies (although I have a master's degree in one of its branches but that's when our ways parted) therefore I can't attest or contradict his knowledge in this book, but I do agree with most of his experiences and life advices, because my life led me, more or less, to the same conclusions. Below quotes resonated the most with me:

"The problem with business people [...] is that if you act like a loser they will treat you as a loser - you set the yardstick yourself. There is no absolute measure of good or bad. It is not what you are telling people, it is how you are saying it."

"[...] just as we tend to underestimate the role of luck in life in general, we tend to overestimate it in games of chance."

"I propose that if you want a simple step to a higher form of life, as distant from the animal as you can get, then you may have to dennarate, that is, shut down the television set, minimize time spent reading newspapers, ignore the blogs. Train your reasoning abilities to control your decisions; nudge System 1 (the heuristic or experiential system) out of the important ones. Train yourself to spot the difference between the sensational and the empirical. This insulation from the toxicity of the world will have an additional benefit: it will improve your well-being. Also, bear in mind how shallow we are with probability, the mother of all abstract notions. You do not have to do much more in order to gain a deeper understanding of things around you. Above all, learn to avoid "tunneling"".

"I once received another piece of life-changing advice, which [...] I find applicable, wise, and emirically valid. My classmate in Paris, the novelist-to-be Jean-Olivier Tedesco, pronounced, as he prevented me from running to catch a subway, "I don't run for trains." Snub your destiny. I have taught myself to resist running to keep on schedule. This may seem a very small piece of advice, but it registered. In refusing to run to catch trains, I have felt the true value of elegance and aesthetics in behaviour, a sense of being in control of my time, my schedule, and my life. Missing a train is only painful if you run after it! Likewise, not matching the idea of success others expect from you is only painful if that's what you are seeking. You stand above the rat race and the pecking order, not outside of it, if you do so by choice."

"It is more difficult to be a loser in a game you set up yourself. In Black Swan terms, this means that you are exposed to the improbable only if you let it control you. You always control what you do; so make this your end."

"I am sometimes taken aback by how people can have a miserable day or get angry because they feel cheated by a bad meal, cold coffee, a social rebuff, or a rude reception. Recall my discussion in Chapter 8 on the difficulty in seeing the true odds of the events that run your own life. We are quick to forget that just being alive is an extraordinary piece of good luck, a remote event, a chance occurance of monsterous proportions. Imagine a speck of dust next to a planet a billion times the size of the earth. The speck of dust represents the odds in favor of your being born; the huge planet would be the odds against it. So stop sweating the small stuff. Don't be like the ingrate who got a castle as a present and worries about the mildew in the bathroom. Stop looking the gift horse in the mouth - remember that you are a Black Swan."

And the best way to demonstrate that his judgement is correct, see this statement made in the essay following the end of this 2nd edition, in 2010: "Once again, I am not saying that we need to stop globalization and travel. We just need to be aware of the side effects, the trade-offs - and few people are. I see the risk of a very strange acute virus spreading through out the planet."

I think Q. E. D.
Profile Image for Henk.
847 reviews
March 28, 2023
Interesting how the author growing up in Lebanon, tipping from a peaceful equilibrium into civil war, tells his story of the world disregarding improbable events through oversimplification and overreliance on the bell curve
Trusting bell curve quantitative models is like picking pennies before a steamroller

Fascinating storytelling on a potentially dull narrative in respect to psychological challenges of humans to deal with highly improbable events.
More thoughts to follow 🦢🖤🧮
Profile Image for Ebtihal Salman.
Author 1 book327 followers
January 23, 2016
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 الى هذا في خاتمته حين يقول ان الكتاب كتب نفسه. ولكنه ربما شعر بالحاجة الى كل هذا الكلام لأن ما يحاول تأكيده يقع بالتضاد مع برمجة حالية: اي تلك الفكرة القائلة ان بوسعنا بثقة وضع تقديرات صحيحة لما لا نعلم. وهي فكرة قد لا تؤثر اذا كان التقدير/التوقع متعلق بوجبة الغداء التي أعدتها أمي اليوم، لكنها يمكن ان تصبح كارثية/اعجازية اذا كانت تتعلق بتقدير نمو خلية سرطانية في خلال سنوات أو أرباح مالية ناجمة عن استثمار.

هناك صعوبة في ملاحقة أفكار نسيم في الكتاب والربط بينها. مع ذلك فهو يعتمد اسلوب قصصي بسيط في القسمين الاول والثاني من الكتاب مما يجعله قادر على الوصول للقاريء العادي وشد الانتباه. القسم الثالث كان اكثر تقنية وقد وضع نسيم ملاحظات تشير الى امكانية تجاوزه لغير المختصين او المهتمين.

الكتاب يفتح الوع�� على أفكار لم أنتبه لها مسبقا ويثير التأمل في ما يطرحه. ربما يكون ايضا بداية للتغيير، ولكن التغيير في التعامل مع التوقعات والتقديرات لا يحدث ببساطة الانتهاء من قراءة الكتاب.

Profile Image for Sense of History.
384 reviews429 followers
December 14, 2020
It has been more than two months since I read this book and only now I succeed in writing a review about what this book can mean for a historian. That says something about how difficult it is to separate the problematic aspects of this book (the arrogant and polemical tone) from the real content. Because Taleb does have something to say for those who look at the past.

For the sake of clarity, firstly his definition of Black Swans: these are unexpected events, both negative and positive, with a huge impact, where no prior warnings exist for those who experience the event, but of which we post-factually are able to give explanations and thus have the impression that they were nevertheless predictable. That is already quite something to chew on. What Taleb offers is the paradoxical side of Black Swans: they come unexpectedly, but we can explain them perfectly afterwards. Some examples: the First World War had to break out if you see how recklessly in the decades before an arms race was under way and how the political leaders underestimated the enormous implications of their aggressive behavior; the fall of the Communist bloc in 1989 could have been predicted, because there were many indications that the economies of those countries were broke, that they were military-technological giants on clay feet, and that their populations only confessed to the official ideology for appearances; and so on, and so on.

Taleb sketches nothing less here, than the work historians do (and by extension of course also journalists and other categories): explaining why something happened. You could have the impression that he actually takes this as a child's play: every one could predict the outcome, given the right facts. But of course, Taleb is not that stupid. In his book there is one striking example that, in all its simplicity, explains the core problem of historical observation. Taleb quotes a scientific experiment: suppose you have an ice block of 1 cubic meter, and you put that in a heated room; by applying a number of scientific laws you can almost perfectly predict how quickly this ice block will melt and how large the pool of water eventually will be; but then think about the reverse experiment: you start with a large pool of water in a room; you can formulate dozens or even hundreds of explanations of how that pool came about, of which only one is that of the experiment with the ice block. In other words: it’s nearly impossible to find out exactly what happened.

When I read this, I was initially very impressed: indeed, the dense veil that hangs over the past makes it almost impossible for a historian to reconstruct what really happened. But after some thought, I have to admit that I felt badly deceived, or better, that I was angry with myself that I had not seen it at once. Because the experiment of Taleb is of such simplicity that it is not realistic: from the experience of a historian we know that there have to be a lot more clues in the room than the simple pool of water: maybe there were still people in white lab coats running around indicating a scientific experiment, perhaps there were heat-convectors in the immediate vicinity, maybe in the puddle there still was the wooden pallet on which the ice block was transported, perhaps scientific reports surfaced in which the experiment was literally described, or perhaps there was a cleaning crew present of which some people had seen everything happen, etc. To keep it short: a really perfect reconstruction may not be easy, but there are always enough traces that provide an approximative, plausible explanation. And just that last thing, and the methodology that comes with it, is the work of the historian.

Another interesting aspect in this book is that Taleb gives many explanations why we do not see Black Swans coming, and that is also relevant to the work of the historian, because it shows where the pitfalls lie, the classic "fallacies" of which one half century ago the American historian D.H. Fischer gave an almost exhaustive list in his seminal work Historians' Fallacies: Toward a Logic of Historical Thought. Taleb mainly focusses on psychological-mental aspects: our very human inclination, for example, to always assume that things will continue to go as they go now; we are mentally blind to the factor of change and chance in history. What is especially bad is that now we think we can predict the future better because of the flight science has taken and has brought more knowledge to the foreside. No wonder Taleb has a lot of criticism on econometrists and demographers who make predictions about economic growth, population trends and so on, which in retrospect almost always prove to be incorrect.

Now, Taleb blames this mainly on the use of wrong probability models (and the technicality of this makes the reading of the second half of this book so difficult). And that's where - according to me - he gets trapped in an own kind of contradiction. His book is full of historical examples of predictions and expectations that turned out to be wrong, and at the end of his book he argues for a form of stoicism because we cannot know which unexpected things can happen. But in other places he argues that we are able to demarcate an area (he calls it Mediocristan) where we are fairly safe, and thus also a very small area (Extremistan) where the Black Swans are active; and this knowledge, that demarcation, could protect us to a certain extent against huge mistakes.

I'm afraid that, in all its vagueness, with this Taleb once again opens the door to historians who imagine that, based on facts from the past, they can predict the future to some extent, and we are back to square one. The incomprehensible thing is that Taleb himself warnes against these kind of mistakes, mistakes that are inherent to mankind: "We do not spontaneously learn that we don’t learn that we don’t learn. The problem lies in the structure of our minds: we don’t learn rules, just facts, and only facts. Metarules (such as the rule that we have a tendency to not learn rules) we don’t seem to be good at getting. We scorn the abstract; we scorn it with passion "(pp xxvi). It is a lesson an historian should always remember.
Profile Image for Sadra Aliabadi.
45 reviews76 followers
March 28, 2017
کتاب فوق‌ العاده بود.
بررسی نسبتا مفصلی رو در وبلاگم درموردش نوشتم:
همین قدر بگم که برای بار دوم خواهم خوندش. فقط در مورد ترجمه بگم که با توجه به این که متن انگلیسی ثقیله کار قابل قبولی انجام شده اما متاسفانه بعضی جاها مترجم برای واژه هایی که معادلهای خوب و معروف دارن دست به واژه سازی زده یا از واژه هایی استفاده کرده که برای مخاطب ممکنه آشنا نباشند. به هر حال. نسخه‌ی انگلسیش رو هم باید خوند.
Profile Image for Chadi Raheb.
328 reviews349 followers
May 21, 2020
با اینکه خلاصه کتاب رو خوندم و باز هم چیز جدیدی برام نداشت اما به نظرم یادآوری‌های مفیدی داشت که باید همیشه جلوی چشمم باشه
به خاطر همین خلاصه ای از برداشت خودم رو ازش مینویسم.
آیا اونقدری محشر بود که برم کاملشو هم بخونم؟
نه خب مگه مرض دارم؟ همین یک اشارت کافی بود

قوی سیاه یعنی لزوما چیزی که فکر میکنیم اتفاق نمیفته. چرا؟

یک. در دسترس نبودن تمام اطلاعات:
ما فقط قسمتی از اطلاعات رو داریم و اگه فکر کنیم این قسمت از این اطلاعات درسته چنان مطمئن میشیم که ممکنه همه چیز رو پای تصمیم ناشی از این اطلاعات بذاریم. ما از کودکی تا امروز میدونستیم همه قوها سفید هستند. “میدونستیم”. ما امروز هزار سالمون هست. ما فردا به قویی سیاه برخورد میکنیم و تمام این هزاران سال زهر خواهد شد چون تفکر ما از اساس اشتباه بوده. اون “از قبل دانستن” مربوط میشه به:

دو. تعصب بر باورها یا confirmation bias:
ما به قوی سیاه برخورد میکنیم. عصبانی و برآشفته میشیم چون سخته قبول کنیم تمام آنچه میدونستیم یا تجربه کردیم یا بهمون گفته بودن اشتباه بوده. ما برمیگردیم خونه و گوگل میکنیم بلکه به وسیله به دست آوردن اطلاعات بیشتر از این آشفتگی رها بشیم. این کار خیلی خوبیه. اما ما در عمیق ترین لایه‌مون هنوز متعصب هستیم. پس گوگل میکنیم “شواهدی مبنی بر سفید بودن تمام قوها”. بعد از ساعت ها اسکرول و تب به تب شدن, دلمون آرام میگیره و فکر میکنیم لابد اون قوی سیاه یک خطای دید بوده.
ما به دنبال چیزی میگردیم که میخوایم ببینیم. ما چیزی رو میبینیم که دلمون میخواد.
ما قوی سفید رو میخوایم پس فقط همون رو سرچ میکنیم و قوی سیاه مای اس

سه. خطای روایت یا narrative fallacy:
مغز ما حجم خیلی زیادی برای به یاد سپردن چیزها داره اما ما به دلیل عجله در تکامل ��ر طی میلیون ها سال, امروز فقط قادریم از قسمت بسیار محدود و ناچیزی از مغزمون رو استفاده کنیم(منظور‌ درصدهای فیزیکال نیست لزوما). دنیای امروز اما مدام در حال بمباران اطلاعاتی ماست. پس مغز ما سلکتیو عمل میکنه و فقط چیزهایی رو در طول روز و شاید در طول زندگی ما انتخاب میکنه که به نظرش مهم هستن. اونوقت از اون چیزها یک سیر داستانی برای به خاطر سپردن میسازه. و اینجاست که ما گاها خاطرات رو به شکلی حتا اشتباه به یاد آورده و به‌به و چه‌چه هم میکنیم. یا برعکس. بی اینکه به فریبی که از مغز میخوریم آگاه باشیم و یا به دلیل شماره دو به دانایی خودمون متعصب باشیم. ما فکر میکنیم هوشمند هستیم و هرچه که به یاد میاریم لابد نیاز هست چون ما آلردی پیش بینی های لازم رو کرده بودیم. غافل از اینکه خطای شماره چهار در انتظارمونه.

چهار. خطای بازی یا lucid fallacy
ما خودمون رو هوشمند میدونیم. به تجربه هامون مفتخر و مغروریم. ما از اشتباهات خودمون یا دیگران درس میگیریم. برای هر قدم تفکر و برنامه‌ریزی میکنیم. حتا اونقدر دانا و دوراندیش و گوگولی هستیم که محدوده ای برای خطر احتمالی به شکل ضریب اطمینان در نظر میگیریم. چون فکر میکنیم زندگی بازی‌ای هست با قوانینی سفت و سخت از پیش تعیین شده. ما قوانین رو میدونیم. ما قوانین رو رعایت میکنیم. پس چرا گاهی بازی رو میبازیم؟ شاید چون فراموش میکنیم که هرگز پایان هیچ بازی‌ای مشخص نیست. شاید بهتر میبود در مدرسه وقتی معلم خودش رو به قطعات نامساوی تقسیم میکرد بلکه ما آمار و احتمالات رو به خوبی یاد بگیریم توجه بیشتری به درس میکردیم. اونوقت امروز میدونستیم که هرگز هیچ چیز قطعی نیست. تنها چیزی که میتونم به شما قول قطعی بودنش رو بدم اینه که اگه یک سیلی به من بزنید, من هم شما رو میزنم. با شات گان البته. هاهاها ^_^ پس حواسمون باشه که ما تقریبا هیچوقت نمیتونیم ریسک ها رو مخصوصا در ابعاد بزرگ درست و قطعی حساب کنیم. چون به دلیل شماره یک محدوده دانش ما اندکه و چیزهایی هست که ما نمیدانیم رییس. این به نادانیِ خود معترف و آگاه بودن شاید در جایی ناجی ما باشه. که البته باز هم خیلی روش حساب نکنین و برید و یه گل‌گاو‌زبون بخورین.

خب دیگه پاشیم بریم قوی سیاهمونو در آغوش بگیریم و باهاش کمی حرف بزنیم و فردا براش اسپاگتی سبزیجات بپزیم
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Dragos Pătraru.
51 reviews2,667 followers
May 17, 2020
M-am tot gândit ce carte aș putea să vă recomand săptămâna asta, ca să vă folosească. Și când am dat cu ochii de Lebăda neagră în bibliotecă am zis: daaa, asta e. Dacă nu ați citit-o, e o lectură obligatorie. Dacă ați citit-o, ar fi bine s-o recitiți în perioada asta, pentru că sigur nu țineți cont în toată nebunia asta de sfaturile lui Taleb. În Lebăda neagră, autorul ne arată cum să facem pentru a evita confuzia dintre gălăgie și informație, ținând în același timp cont de ignoranța noastră. Da, om părea noi, oamenii, cele mai inteligente ființe de pe planetă, dar suntem jalnici atunci când vine vorba de a face previziuni. Este o carte pe care le-o recomand cu căldură pariorilor, jucătorilor la bursă, mai ales celor care n-au înțeles până acum că informațiile pe care nu le au (lebedele negre) sunt cele mai importante, iar deciziile pe care le iau în baza informațiilor pe care le dețin rareori sunt corecte. Felul în care creierul nostru pune toate informațiile într-o poveste cu sens pentru noi face ca de multe ori să ne înșelăm în legătură cu totul. Lectură plăcută!
Profile Image for سیاوش.
218 reviews1 follower
August 14, 2017
پرفسور نسیم طالب علاوه بر فعالیت ه��ی پژوهشی و علمی در زمینه کسب و کار هم فعال بوده اما او را بیشتر به خاطر کارهایش در حوزه ی احتمالات و عدم قطعیت میشناسند. مفهوم قوی سیاه این است که مردم را مجبور میسازد درباره ی ناشناخته ها و قدرت آنها تامل کنند. تامل به معنای هالو نبودن نه شک گرایی افراطی و انفعال.
قوی سیاه سه ویژگی دارد غیر منتظره است.پیامدش سنگین است. پس از انکه اتفاق افتاد فکر میکنیم قابل پیش بینی بود (ولی قابل پیش بینی نیست).
قوهای سیاه همه ی رویدادهای جهانمان را, از اندیشه ها و ادیان گرفته تا رویدادهای تاریخی و جنبه های زندگی شخصی خودمان را توجیه میکنند.
این کتاب رو انقدر دوست داشتم که دو بار خوندمش. یه جاهایی آدمو شگفت زده میکنه
قسمتی از کتاب:
مارکوس سیسرو, خطیب, سخن‌سرا, متفکر وسیاست مدار رواقی رومی این داستان را گفت: به یک نفر بی‌دین که به خدایان باور نداشت الواحی نشان دادند که تصویر نیایش گرانی بر آن نقش بسته بود که با نیایش از حادثه ی کشتی جان به در برده بودند. ادعای قضیه این بود که نیایش شما را از غرق شدن نجات میدهد. شخص بی دین پرسید: تمثال کسانی که نیایش کردند و غرق شدند کو؟
میتوان مشاهده‌گر سرسری را فریفت تا معجزه را باور کند.
21 reviews2 followers
March 27, 2009
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-probability events can carry a high-impact. He's almost certainly right that we over-apply the "bell curve" and other normalized frequency distributions, with the consequence of underestimating the probability of very rare events.

But he's kind of a jerk about it.

If you don't mind that kind of thing (I don't, really), then this is a pretty good read. If you've thought along these lines before, though, don't expect to be startled. There are no magic recipes for success in Taleb's "Extremistan" here, just some common sense principles that you can pretty much derive from the first 50 pages of the book.

My only other complaint--and it's not one I can really spell out with any confidence--is this: I came away with this diffuse sense of overconfidence from Taleb...that he believes his metaphors and conjectures, etc. apply in more instances than they actually do.

All told, it's a good book, and if I could force it on MBA graduates, I would. I'd just package it with a single grain of salt.
Profile Image for Ihor Kolesnyk.
400 reviews
September 21, 2020
Після усієї філософської, історично, соціологічної, економічної академічної літератури, яку довелося читати за роки навчання і аспірантури, мій мозок виявляється виробив одну хорошу рису, за яку можу радіти: здатність розуміти, розпізнавати і знімати лапшу з вух від усіх сортів "фахівців", "таксистів широкого профілю" і "знаю-все-розкажу-як-мотивувати-кращу-долю-дітей-зняти-вроки". Ось переді мною щойно була книга, яка належить до числа просто bullshit'у. Можливо це час такий, що популізм всюди, але ця книга для мене як історія з Трампом та Зеленським. Не все те, що купується широко і масово має для мене особисто хоч якусь ціну.
Ця книга не вартує моїх грошей, шкодую навіть за ті, що пішли на електронний примірник. І часу трохи шкода, але що вже тут зробиш?
Profile Image for Tanja Berg.
1,860 reviews425 followers
February 17, 2013
Wall-banger at page 64. This might not be the final rating. I entertain the possibility of picking this up again, but at the moment I cannot bear the thought. The author is an annoying schmuck and that overshadows the concepts, which are quite interesting. You want to learn something useful within the same genre, pick up "Thinking, fast and slow" by Daniel Kahneman instead.
Profile Image for Yara Yu.
540 reviews440 followers
May 26, 2023
كانوا يقولون أن كل البجع في العالم أبيض حتي تفاجأوا ببجع أسود فكان حدث غير متوقع وأصبحت هذه نظرية البجعه السوداء هي كل حدث غير متوقع يحدث لنا
حدث لا يمكن أن تتخيله يصدمك وتتسأل كيف ولماذا ولمتي .. تأثيره شديد وبعد تلقي الصدمة نجد التبريرات لحدوثه
كتاب مخيف لانه عن أكتر ما يخيف النفس البشرية وهو الأحداث غير المتوقعه كيف نتلقاها ونتعامل معها
فكم من بجعه سوداء طاردتنا في هذه الحياة
Profile Image for Misha.
74 reviews35 followers
December 27, 2012
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, but I know that he really drops the ball with his math, which is amateur at best and misleading at its worst. For example, on page 235 of the hardcover edition he writes: "Take a random sample of any two people in the U.S. population who jointly earn $1 million per annum ... it would be $50,000 and $950,000" This is used to illustrate income inequality in the U.S., but really the only reason it's true is because $50,000 is a common annual income. If he set his total to $2 million, or $100 million, his point would seem even more significant. I stopped reading this book shortly after that page.
Profile Image for Akash Nair.
17 reviews11 followers
December 16, 2013
Black Swan is easily one of the most challenging books I have read. Reading it felt like being part of a revolution. Difficult to comprehend during the first reading, it attacks the application of the Gaussian bell curve in Modern Portfolio Management Theory viciously and having read it a lot recently, it makes me feel like a fool. The book is a treasure trove if you are a quizzer. Contains a hell lot of names(philosophers, economists, mathematicians..). Makes you think hard and gives you a lot to build upon. Has invoked a strong urge to read more philosophy.
Profile Image for Tamila.
42 reviews320 followers
July 8, 2018
نويسنده از محبوبترين اقتصاد دانهاى من ست. ديدش به اقتصاد و شيوه زندگى اش بسيار جذابه. اينكتاب مشهورترين كتاب نويسنده ست
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