Monday, March 5, 2012

The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

The full name of the book is The Black Swan, The Impact of the Highly Improbable. How would his ideas affects you personally? Well, he talks about systems and situations being robust or fragile. For example, if you are up to you eyeballs in debt and something happen, it could cause a catastrophe for you.

If you had your finances well managed and you had an emergency fund, your financial state could be robust and if something unexpectedly side swiped you, you could probably handle it and not have a catastrophe on your hands.

If you do not know the origin of the black swan, I will tell you. All Europeans thought swans were always white, because that is all they had seen. When they went to Australia, they found black swans and this was very unexpected.

One tale of unexpected risks comes from a casino example. Casinos spend millions of dollars on gambling risks. However, a casino’s biggest risk can come, not from gambling, but such things as someone wanting to blow up a casino or from a casino not filling the right tax forms.

He also points out that people generally attributes their success from their skills, but attributes their failures to events outside their control or randomness. He also points out that capitalism destroys large companies but socialism does not. Socialist’s governments tend to protect their monster companies and kill off all potential newcomers in the womb.

A nice short video review of this book (less than 2 minutes) is at YouTube. Another short video that discusses both Fooled by Randomness and The Black Swan is also on YouTube at Papamedia. There is also a 9 minute video with Taleb at Harvard University talking about social problems . See 40 minute interview by Richard Herring at Wharton.

There is a good review at the Guardian. Giles Foden very much loved the first book Taleb wrote called “Fooled by Randomness, however, he feels this book was rushed and badly written. I must say, I very much enjoyed this book, but then I have not yet read Fooled by Randomness. I probably should.

Another review is by a blogger called Grumpy Old Bookman. This review is quite long, but well worth reading.

I found this a very interesting book and Taleb says many very interesting things. However, he is quite full of himself.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb has his own site. This book has an entry on Wikipedia at The Black Swan. There is also an entry for the theory.

On my website is how to find this book on Amazon if you care to purchase it. See Taleb. Also, this book review and other books I have reviewed are on my website at Book Reviews.

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