Monday, May 25, 2009

The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

A good book that describes how our brains fall into various traps regarding prediction and knowledge because we underestimate the impact of randomness and overestimate the validity of our models of phenomena. This was not an excellent book (for me) because much of it was review as I have had prior exposure to much of the content, both from various other works as well as his previous book, Fooled by Randomness. Further, Taleb does have a bit of a condescending tone and though he makes many an significant point, calling others stupid or idiotic isn’t the best way to try to convince them of anything.
That aside, The Black Swan has numerous pieces of important information, from social psychological findings regarding happiness and relative rank to the plausibility of financiers having a good run for years but possibly just by luck, to philosophical explorations of the problems of induction, how we can know things and the inherent problems when we try to predict.
As it is so very easy to fall into myriad cognitive traps that bias the world for us, I find works like this valuable. Consequently, I think similar content should be mandatory in our education system (minus the snotty tone and occasional, overreaching statement).
In summation, worthwhile but you would probably do nearly as well with his first book as it was more concise and explored similar themes.


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