The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable

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Random House LLC, Apr 17, 2007 - Business & Economics - 366 pages
1531 Reviews
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. In this revelatory book, Taleb explains everything we know about what we don’t know, and this second edition features a new philosophical and empirical essay, “On Robustness and Fragility,” which offers tools to navigate and exploit a Black Swan world.
 
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.
 
Praise for Nassim Nicholas Taleb
 
“The most prophetic voice of all.”—GQ
 
Praise for The Black Swan
 
“[A book] that altered modern thinking.”—The Times (London)
 
“A masterpiece.”—Chris Anderson, editor in chief of Wired, author of The Long Tail
 
“Idiosyncratically brilliant.”—Niall Ferguson, Los Angeles Times
 
The Black Swan changed my view of how the world works.”—Daniel Kahneman, Nobel laureate
 
“[Taleb writes] in a style that owes as much to Stephen Colbert as it does to Michel de Montaigne. . . . We eagerly romp with him through the follies of confirmation bias [and] narrative fallacy.”—The Wall Street Journal
 
“Hugely enjoyable—compelling . . . easy to dip into.”—Financial Times
 
“Engaging . . . The Black Swan has appealing cheek and admirable ambition.”—The New York Times Book Review


From the Hardcover edition.
  

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Premise is very good. - Goodreads
The writing is pretentious and irritating. - Goodreads
A challenging, yet easy to read, book. - Goodreads
Some very clever insights drenched in arrogance. - Goodreads
Great overview of why predictions are so difficult. - Goodreads
Hard to read and dubious conclusion - Goodreads

Review: The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable

User Review  - Pieter - Goodreads

A book all should read... Gives a contemporary overview of hubris could lead into. Read full review

Review: The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable

User Review  - Joe Green - Goodreads

I don't really know how I want to rate this book. The actual "philosophy" of the book is extremely valuable. As someone who is often called by others a "cynic" but who is really a "skeptic," there ... Read full review

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Contents

On History Running Backward
12
V4 Lbs Later
18
The Speculotor and the Prostitute
26
One Thousand and One Doys or How Not to Be a Sucker
38
Confirmation Shmontirmction
51
The Narrative Fallacy
62
Living in the Antechomber of Hope
85
The Story of the Drowned Worslmippcrs
100
Lockes Madmen or Bell Curves in the Wrong Places
274
The Uncertainty ot the Phony
286
Hall and Hall or How to Get Even with the Black Swan
295
GLOSSARV
301
lLearning from Mother Nature the Oldest and the Wisest
307
Do All This Walking or How Systems Become Fragile
324
lllMCITQOIITOS Ante POTCOS
330
IVAsperger and the Ontologlcal Black Swan
339

The Ludic Fallacy or The Uncertainty at the Nerd
122
WE JUST CANT PREDICT I35
136
How to Look tor Bird Poop
165
Epistemocrccy 0 Dream
190
Appelles the Pointer or What Do You Do it
201
THOSE GRAY SWANS OF EXTREMISTAN
213
The Bell Curve That Great Intellectual Fraud
229
The Aesthetics of Randomness
253
The Logic of Fractal Randomness with a Warning
262
VPerhaps the Most Useful Problem In the History
347
The Problem of Induction and Causation in the Complex Domain
358
VllWhat to Do with the Fourth Quadrant
367
VlllThe Ten Principles tor a BlackSwanRobust Society
374
NOTES
381
BIBLIOGRAPHY
401
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS FOR THE FIRST EDITION
431
INDEX
437
Copyright

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About the author (2007)

Nassim Nicholas Taleb has devoted his life to immersing himself in problems of luck, uncertainty, probability, and knowledge, and he has led three high-profile careers around his ideas, as a man of letters, as a businessman-trader, and as a university professor. Although he spends most of his time as a flâneur, meditating in cafés across the planet, he is currently Distinguished Professor of Risk Engineering at New York University’s Polytechnic Institute. His work has been published in thirty-three languages.


From the Hardcover edition.

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