The Black Swan

Tags: book-review

One of the rules which NN Taleb has to pick a book worth reading is that it should be worth reading more than once. This book is easily worth reading more than once.

The thing which I like about NNT is that his books span multiple territories of literature: in one book you’ll find philosophy, humour, satire, mainstream-bashing, and of course a for-layman description of Economics.

The main idea behind Black Swan is that we humans inherently tend to be very bad at predicting events, but we don’t know that. In real world, just not to overload our primitive brains, we make mental models which are a much simpler case of the more complex reality. Since these are simpler by definition, we tend to ignore the unknowns. Black Swans are those unknowns which come back and bite us, and once bitten we provide a reasoning of their presence.

In the book NNT shouts a lot, mostly because we:

  1. Try to predict a lot
  2. Use simpler models for prediction
  3. Don’t factor in that something might go wrong
  4. Don’t learn from our mistakes when something wrong happens, and go back to step 1.

Apart from that, Black Swan described some very interesting concepts, Mediocristan and Extremistan, the power laws, how people are clueless, how too much theory rots the brain, how we should actually go and understand ideas from Mother Nature instead of moving her out of our modern lives, why having a good enough margin of safety needs to be taken in so that Black Swans don’t become very deadly.

All in all a great book.