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Skin in the Game: The Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life

(Incerto #5)

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  14,079 ratings  ·  1,507 reviews
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Black Swan, a bold new work that challenges many of our long-held beliefs about risk and reward, politics and religion, finance and personal responsibility

In his most provocative and practical book yet, one of the foremost thinkers of our time redefines what it means to understand the world, succeed in a profession, contri
Paperback, 272 pages
Published June 1st 2018 by Allen Lane
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Ryan Boissonneault
Mar 01, 2018 rated it liked it
Skin in the Game is at the same time thought-provoking and original but also contradictory and sometimes absurd.

Let’s start with the cons:

1. I certainly won’t be the first to notice that Taleb can be mean-spirited. But why does he insist on presenting his views in this way? The communication of his ideas, often profound, does not require a mean-spirited or condescending tone. For however brilliant Taleb thinks he is, his skills in persuasion are severely lacking; he’s alienating a significant r
Taleb’s ‘Skin in the Game’ has been put together in a somewhat disorderly way, but the reasoning goes as follows:

1. The world in which we live is complex and eludes our sense-making faculties.

2. Our society has cultivated a privileged class of Intellectuals Yet Idiots (IYIs). These people monopolize positions of authority and routinely take decisions to intervene in that complex world, without however doing the effort to think through the cascading impacts of these decisions and being convenient
Mar 01, 2018 rated it did not like it
SITG is an angry rant. It lacks structure. The core message - mainly because of the author’s often misplaced and wrong arguments against his self-created adversaries - is never examined beyond the title’s most known or intuitive conventional meaning. The basic concept is at least as old as the adage itself. The author does little to bolster the claim while spending all efforts on slamming real or imagined opponents. The book’s frequent diversions along with internal contradictions amid a rather ...more
From the back cover of the book jacket:
The problem with Taleb is not that he's an asshole. He is an asshole. The problem with Taleb is that he is right.
This is the third book I've read by Nassim Taleb (The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable and Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder: Here is my review of Antifragile.) And this book, Skin in the Game is more quirky than either of his previous books--if that is at all possible. This book is poorly written. It jumps around from
☘Misericordia☘ ~ The Serendipity Aegis ~  ⚡ϟ⚡ϟ⚡⛈ ✺❂❤❣
I’m improperly awed and professionally depressed by this guy. While I’ve been in love with the concept of asymmetry since, like, forever, he puts on it such an excruciating spin that… a lot of professions suddenly attain the unmistakable bullshit (or maybe swanshit!) flavor.

Anyway, this book lost a bit of its charm due to aggressive and seemingly random things aggregated together. I'm sure it's another case of 'it's not you, it's me', still, I felt the previous volumes were better grounded and m
Apr 23, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: on-a-break
Cherry-picking meets ignorance of human nature meets naive interpretation of history meets erroneous assumptions.

If you cherry-pick the data, you can make ANY ridiculous hypothesis sound convincing.

Unlike those who complain about Taleb’s unresolved teenage angst, his thin-skinned hubris, or his lack of civility, I couldn’t care less about his crass remarks. My problem is with the ideas in this book, not its author, although I do question the intelligence of its author when his prose lapses into
Magnus Ahmad
Feb 21, 2018 rated it did not like it
Pop-science in it's lowest form. Book reads like a poorly researched, hastily written college essay. Strings together a few nuggets of common sense wisdom with sizeable amounts of unreferenced BS. Taleb is a shark, living off a reputation and using his own fanbase like an ATM.
Daniel Clausen
1. I can't rate this book. This seems an absurd thing to say, but it's hard to rate a book that often comes off as a pre-pubescent twitter rant. I think the problem is that Taleb's classical (and anti-modern) sense of honor screeches against my modern ears. Also, his classical sense of honor often devolves into the aesthetics of blue-collar water cooler bullshit sessions (I've been around too many of these), twitter rants, and toxic masculinity.

1a. At one point Taleb addresses a letter from some
Mar 04, 2018 rated it it was ok
In this book #4, Taleb is more arrogant and pretentious than ever. You can never let go of the feeling that this book is about him, rather than any other topic. He's become profoundly obnoxious and negative. Despite some good points in the book, reading it feels like carrying a burden.

In this new book Taleb goes to extra lengths to attack David Runciman, head of the politics department at Cambridge, and a Guardian book reviewer who had torn apart his previous "Antifragile" book. Runciman's crit
Feb 26, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I wanted to like this and I certainly did at the beginning. All of his insults are complex, original and amusing but he insults so many people so frequently that the process itself becomes tedious. I do enjoy his historical anecdotes, but again there are a large volume of them, and not always obviously with a point, other than a demonstration of his research or recall abilities. It is the fact that he criticises many individuals in passing with a specific but cryptic reference to something they ...more
Nov 12, 2018 rated it liked it
Taleb has a few basic rules of writing, to wit:
* Never be boring
* Be sure to insult those you disagree with
* Remind the reader frequently of how smart you are, as evidenced by a multitude of quotations, in Latin wherever possible
* Mix the brilliant with the banal, the insightful with the sophomoric, the wise with the petty
* Keep the chapters short
* Roam widely across history to draw examples from, especially the classical world of the Eastern Mediterranean
* Remind the reader that although you ar
Mar 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Five stars only because six weren't available.
Leif Denti
May 23, 2018 rated it it was ok
Taleb has lost it. Regrettably. This book is a good example of someone doing a "Lord Kelvin", that is, making strong claims about things that are not within your field of expertise. Taleb is a statistician, but of course that doesn't hinder him from having very strong opinions on other matters such as other researchers' fields, politics, banking, journalism, to mention just a few.

That's a shame because I loved his first two books. However since Antifragility, quality has been on a downward slop
Dec 21, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ideas, managing-self
3.5* - rounding up to 4.

Be warned: this book is a ranty, largely unstructured, flow-of-consciousness type stuff. It has an equal probability or either delighting the reader or driving them mad. I personally enjoy the erudite style of Taleb's argumentation and find his references and vignettes of the 'times gone by' intellectually stimulating. Also, the black-and-white bluntness of his position makes the book feel refreshing. You may not agree with Taleb's side, but you are never left in doubt wh
Mar 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Some really good insights in a very small book -

1. "When it comes to the country, I'm a libertarian, when it comes to the state, I'm a republican, when it comes to my city, I'm a Democrat, when it comes to my family, I'm a Socialist".
2. Cost benefit analysis is not possible when there is a probability of Ruin.
3. The west is in the process of committing ideological suicide (on minority rule).
4. Its easier to Macrobullshit than it is to Microbullshit.
5. What matters is not what a person has, but w
Gints Dreimanis
Mar 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Hey, another one who doesn't give a fuck.

NNT is a bit of a diva, and it is obvious that he has some beef with a lot of people. He certainly sounds right. But is he? I don't know.

The book revolves around the notion that people not having skin in the game will fuck us up, somehow. Turns out that the idea of skin in the game can be applied to a wide variety of fields and professions. Especially the ones Taleb doesn't like, like academics, policy makers, journalists. Oh, and rationality as you kno
Gaurav Mathur
Feb 27, 2018 rated it liked it
Aah, Taleb. I have read all his non-technical books at least twice, so of course it was with great enthusiasm that I bought this... SITG.

Bit of a bummer.

SITG has some great insights, but most of them were shared on his Twitter account, and his posts on Medium. That is:

(SITG book - Previous works - Medium posts = few new insights)

Also, a bit of complaining about how his ideas were not listened to.

But of course applaud the man for pursuing his ideas for more than 2 decades. Have learned quite a lo
Ill D
Mar 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Taleb's the hero.
Peter (Pete) Mcloughlin
I like Taleb's books while hating his politics. I like that he says what he thinks is true and doesn't care who he pisses off. He is also right about a lot of things. He is on target with his jibes at chattering classes who no skin in the game and blythly go on about issues that they will lose nothing on if they are wrong. no accountability. when he goes off on politics defending Trump he goes off rails. Just because his enemies who he calls intellectual yet idiots despise Trump it doesn't besto ...more
Jun 20, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
By the end I was so tired of hearing a man child complaining about literally everything in the world. He complains about teachers, politicians, academics, doctors. There are a few good ideas but they are all wrapped in Talib’s aura of crap.
Yevgeniy Brikman
Feb 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
As with most of Taleb's books, this one is poorly organized, full of childish insults and bravado, and makes some totally absurd claims. But this book also contains some startling, deep insights and ideas. It's frustrating to have to wade through a lot of bullshit to get to these interesting ideas, but when you finally get there, the pay off is pretty damn good. Here are some of the biggest insights I got from this book:

1. The central thesis is that "skin in the game" is essential for systems t
Tim O'Hearn
Mar 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I read this book a few months ago and enjoyed it. Taleb is kind of dickish but he often succeeds in making me question whether I'm smart enough to grasp what he's saying. This brings a special level of excitement to reading any of his works. To me, they present a challenge. A crossword puzzle of intellect with some pseudo elements.

The underlying concept in this book is evident from the title. It's an extrapolation of the principle-agent problem. Most of my notes from my original reading have bee
Lucas Carlson
Feb 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Love this book. Much smaller in number of words than his others, but equally dense if not more so with ideas. It’s a great compliment to the rest of his books and ties his ideas together well.

I’ve heard a lot of otherwise smart people criticize Taleb as trying to sound smart without saying anything new or special, but I can’t disagree more.

If I had to distill everything Taleb into one idea, I would focus on the last few sentences of this latest book, which I will summarize in my own memory of
Harsh Gupta
Mar 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant book. Many chapters of the book are available on medium, for example


* Taleb is **not** meant to be read literally.

* Read "Antifragile" or "Black Swan" before reading this to better appreciate the content, especially if Taleb's article on "Intellectual Yet Idiot" offends you Better get some "skin in the game" :D
Petr Augustin
Feb 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Only modern philosophy that makes sense. I wonder if people will look back at Taleb and think "why the hell didn't we listen to this guy more?"
Mar 15, 2018 rated it did not like it
“The mark of a charlatan is to defend his position or attack a critic by focusing on some specific statement (“ look at what he said”) rather than blasting his exact position (“ look at what he means” or, more broadly, “look at what he stands for”)— for the latter requires an extensive grasp of the proposed idea.”

This quote from Mr. Taleb perfectly summarizes my problems with his book.

The general theme of the book is that one should be wary of those making decisions who lack consequences of thos
Daniel Cañueto
Feb 24, 2018 rated it liked it
Taleb should know by now that, according to Lindy effect, he should respect the canonical writing style and analysis schemes he tries to avoid.

Less new ideas and more off-topic resentful digression. His message keeps being interesting. However, Jordan B. Peterson has been able to distil it in a more productive way for humanity (and not only for contrarian elitists).
Jul 07, 2018 rated it liked it
I’ve read Taleb’s books The Black Swan and Fooled By Randomness so I’m accustomed to his lessons. With that said, I think this is a well-written book, as expected, but I don’t believe I learned much from it that I didn’t already know from his previous writings. The point that skin in the game is necessary for accurate examination of changes in the economy and policies is informative and one that economists often overlook, though I think Taleb exaggerates the rate economists overlook this point, ...more
Mar 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Few authors through their writing have the ability to make one really think; Taleb is one of the few who can and does.
There are many ways to be critical about this book, and the criticisms would not be groundless.
For one, Taleb expresses contempt for many present-day scholars such as Steven Pinker, Richard Thaler, and Thomas Picketty. One of the nicer expressions he coins for this group is IYI (Intellectual Yet Idiot).
As is usually the case, an attack on another tends to reflect more on onese
Laura Noggle
Reads like the Burn Book from Mean Girls.

Taleb spares no one, ripping professions, beliefs, jobs, and people—by name—apart. Especially Steven Pinker, whom he calls out more than twice.

Highly offensive, I found this book a riotous good time, hilarious, and razor sharp.

This ended up being one of my favorite books of 2018, completed on December 31st.

I will read this one again next year, for, as Taleb points out:

"... learning is rooted in repetition and convexity, meaning that the reading of a sin
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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 erro

Other books in the series

Incerto (5 books)
  • Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets
  • The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable
  • The Bed of Procrustes: Philosophical and Practical Aphorisms
  • Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder

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