The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable

Front Cover
Random House Publishing Group, Apr 17, 2007 - Philosophy - 366 pages
111 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 inside the book

What people are saying - Write a review

User ratings

5 stars
37
4 stars
34
3 stars
21
2 stars
10
1 star
9

Excellent writing...supoib - Goodreads
Hard to read and dubious conclusion - Goodreads
Terrific premise and hypothesis. - Goodreads
Some very clever insights drenched in arrogance. - Goodreads
This was a very educational book but a bit dense. - Goodreads
The writing is pretentious and irritating. - Goodreads
User Review - Flag as inappropriate

I'd like to recommend it, but the book forces us to confront the impact of events for which we have no way to predict. And so too must we realize just how poor we as a society are at uncertainty, very large and very small numbers -- especially probabilities.

The prose is awesome

User Review  - Radhakrishna S... - Flipkart

The first thing you notice is the superb prose that the author uses. Every book is a fabric that an author creates using the words that he has in his arsenal to weave it. Nassim Nicholas Taleb has ... Read full review

Contents

UMBERTO ECCVS ANTILIBRARY OR HOW WE SEEK VALIDATION
1
Yevgenias Black Swan
23
One Thousand and One Days or How Not to Be a Sucker
38
Copyright

20 other sections not shown

Common terms and phrases

References to this book

All Book Search results »

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.

Bibliographic information