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The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly…

The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable (original 2007; edition 2007)

by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Series: Incerto (2)

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8,076188950 (3.74)1 / 110
Examines the role of the unexpected, discussing why improbable events are not anticipated or understood properly, and how humans rationalize the black swan phenomenon to make it appear less random.
Title:The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable
Authors:Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Info:Random House (2007), Hardcover, 400 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:uncertainty, probability

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The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable by Nassim Nicholas Taleb (2007)


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 Philosophy and Theory: The Black Swan8 unread / 8Jesse_wiedinmyer, June 2007

» See also 110 mentions

English (164)  Dutch (5)  Italian (5)  German (4)  Spanish (4)  French (3)  Czech (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (187)
Showing 1-5 of 164 (next | show all)
A nice, practical synthesis of the various criticisms of mainstream economic theory and the illusion/allure of predictability in general. Taleb also dishes out a lot of criticism of how economists are educated as well as economists in general--particularly those who appear to understand that not everything is a bell curve but compartmentalize that knowledge away from their economic work.

As other reviewers have pointed out, much of this thinking has been around for years, in some cases more than a century. Where the author stands out is in putting it into practice, and, of course, having written this book explaining it all.

However, while Taleb naturally disagrees with this evaluation, I and others found him to be somewhat arrogant. I also agree with those who feel that the information could have been presented more compactly--though in the author's defense, he stated that he wanted to take time to develop some narratives around these ideas in the hopes of a more powerful presentation. ( )
  qaphsiel | Feb 20, 2023 |
Amusing, anecdotal, insightful, and for the first while, sparkling: the narrative promotes new ways of thinking about how foolish it is to predict anything. Taleb was certainly prescient (it was just prior to the 2008 financial crash): an amazing example of his "Black Swan" metaphor for predicting the highly improbable event, an outlier, an unnoticed negative "what if" aspect, to evaluating probable outcomes. Ultimately, we get the message, and I for one, do agree ~ that good research with appropriate mathematical models to predict a trend, a possible endpoint result, etc., can all be flushed down the loo if a Black Swan appears.

A diificulty with the story is that Taleb's theme repeats throughout most of the book, The inability to predict outliers implies the inability to predict the course of history, which I found tedious. After several side trips in his narrative, reader engagement fell off, even though the author's writing was itself very engaging. Despite the caveats, I do recommend the book quite strongly because in many fields of research, not just the world of finance, an improbability overlooked can ruin an entire hypothesis. Food for thought, indeed. ( )
  SandyAMcPherson | Jan 29, 2023 |
When first read this was an interesting insight explored extensively in an anecdotal approach that became tedious. Revisit reconfirms this. ( )
  RodneyGMiller | Jan 13, 2023 |
'The subtitle of this book ('the impact of the highly improbable') underlines why it is so relevant to the current pandemic despite the fact that it was published in 2007. Written in accessible prose, 'The Black Swan' gives us simple tools for spotting the elephants on the world stage (and in financial markets). MK
  LibraryofMistakes | Sep 26, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 164 (next | show all)
Since the book was written prior to the current situation, many of the insights will seem prophetic. For instance, “regulators in the banking business are prone to a severe expert problem and they tend to condone reckless but (hidden) risk taking.” Some might think that the book specifically predicted the current market and economic crisis—wrong. The book is about the expectation that it could occur.
added by dtw42 | editBusiness Economics, Gerald L Musgrave (pay site) (Aug 11, 2011)
Some of his presentation is incendiary in criticizing economics, finance, and many of its most honored practitioners. Because the book is viewed as being partly about Taleb himself and because of the style of the presentation, some react to the author's persona. If you are forewarned and forearmed, it is easier to focus on the ideas in the book. Because the arguments are controversial, it is understandable that he has chosen to have sharp elbows in getting to the front of the stage.
Taleb and his publishers clearly believe the success of Fooled by Randomness is going to come again. But that book had a persuasive sobriety. The same cannot be said for The Black Swan, which despite the great utility of its insights is badly structured and hurriedly written.
added by Jozefus | editThe Guardian, Giles Foden (May 12, 2007)
"The Black Swan" has appealing cheek and admirable ambition, and contains such wise observations as: “We attribute our successes to our skills, and our failures to external events outside our control.” But the book exhibits shortcomings, the first being lack of structure.

» Add other authors (14 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Nassim Nicholas Talebprimary authorall editionscalculated
Pietiläinen, KimmoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To Benoît Mandelbrot, a Greek among Romans
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Before the discovery of Australia, people in the Old World were convinced that all swans were white, an unassailable belief as it seemed completely confirmed by empirical evidence.
Information from the German Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Die beste Strategie besteht also darin, möglichst viel auszuprobieren und möglichst viele Chancen, aus den sich Schwarze Schwäne ergeben könnten, zu ergreifen.
Die narrative Verzerrung ist Ausdruck unserer eingeschränkten Fähigkeit, Reihen von Fakten zu betrachten, ohne eine Erklärung in sie hineinzuweben oder, was dasselbe bedeutet, gewaltsam eine logische Verknüpfung, einen Beziehungspfeil zwischen ihnen herzustellen. Erklärungen binden Fakten zusammen. Sie sorgen dafür, dass wir uns viel leichter an sie erinnern können, dass sie mehr Sinn ergeben. Diese Neigung kann uns aber in die Irre führen, wenn sie unseren Eindruck, dass wir verstehen, verstärkt.
Wir sind soziale Tiere; die Hölle sind andere Menschen.
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Information from the German Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Examines the role of the unexpected, discussing why improbable events are not anticipated or understood properly, and how humans rationalize the black swan phenomenon to make it appear less random.

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Book description
Table of Contents from Worldcat:

Umberto Eco's antilibrary, or how we seek validation. The apprenticeship of an empirical skeptic ; Yevgenia's black swan ; The speculator and the prostitute ; One thousand and one days, or how not to be a sucker ; Confirmation shmonfirmation! ; The narrative fallacy ; Living in the antechamber of hope ; Giacomo Casanova's unfailing luck : the problem of silent evidence ; The Ludic fallacy, or the uncertainty of the nerd -- We just can't predict. The scandal of prediction ; How to look for bird poop ; Epistemocracy, a dream ; Appelles the Painter, or what do you do if you cannot predict? -- Those gray swans of Extremistan. From Mediocristan to Extremistan and back ; The bell curve, that great intellectual fraud ; The aesthetics of randomness ; Locke's madmen, or bell curves in the wrong places ; The uncertainty of the phony -- The end. Half and half, or how to get even with the black swan -- Epilogue : Yevgenia's white swans.
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