Posted by: Phil | January 30, 2011

The black swan; a review.


The Black Swan is a book by Nassim Taleb, and his main thesis is that life is unpredictable and that we can easily fool ourselves in finding patters and reasons after an event has occurred. A black swan event is something that is unpredictable, has a massive impact and after the fact, we make up explanations that seem to suggest that it was a really an ordinary event that was bound to happen anyway. So Google was a black swan and so was 9/11.

The interesting thing about the book for me is the explanations that Taleb gives, about how we humans are hardwired to think in a certain way and how we can be easily fooled. It is hard to imagine the impossible, and that is our downfall. The book is not easy to read, and I myself had to read it three times in 6 months to really understand it. Still, the writer is at fault in a number of ways. He does not write in an easy manner and comes across as very pompous. He is highly intelligent and he knows it and flaunts it across the pages. He loves to describe how his adversaries tried to prove him wrong and were not able. He reminds me of Richard Dawkins, but in a more abrasive style.

It is too bad that his solutions to the black swan and how we can robustify ourselves are not more expansive; I really was disappointed in how little he really discusses solutions and how we as humans can use these in our everyday lives. But I am sure that if he read those lines he would argue that he did offer solutions but that perhaps I may be too dim to understand them…

I still recommend this book highly, because you will not see the world in the same way afterwards and you will be able to laugh at all those statisticians and financial advisors that try to predict the future with their complex mathematics…and do not know how wrong they are!

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