Wednesday, July 11, 2012
Review: The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable
The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I liked this book, but I am not sure what to make of it in the end. At times, Taleb can be arrogant and dismissive--though often this was what I like about him! There was a lot that I didn't quite get--either too technical or too mathematical for me. But I think I get the main idea. Life (and the world) is much more complex that we imagine (paraphrasing a different quote: more complex than we can even imagine). Important parts of our lives are beyond our control and predicatablity. We cannot predict the events nor their effects (these are the black swans). The proper response is to make oneself robust enough to absorb shocks (instead of ignoring them, pretending they don't exist, or fruitlessly trying to predict them with false metrics). The practical elements of how to do this are more challenging (aren't they always!). Nevertheless, the ideas have applications from personal, practical, living to economic and social policy. It is a worthwhile read, though at times frustrating and meandering (which the autobiographical elements of the book show come directly from Taleb himself). One might check out the interviews with Taleb on Econtalk to get the main idea and some of its applications.
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