Neil's Reviews > The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable

The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
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's review

really liked it
bookshelves: mba, philosophy, logic

Okay, let's see if I got it straight...

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

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

Something like that.

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

His key practical point is about the need for a NON-parametric look at any situation in which low-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.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
March 26, 2009 – Shelved
March 26, 2009 – Shelved as: mba
March 26, 2009 – Shelved as: philosophy
March 26, 2009 – Shelved as: logic
March 26, 2009 – Finished Reading

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