The Black Swan — Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Jan van den Berg
Dec 11, 2019 · 2 min read

When The Black Swan came out in 2007 it caused quite a stir. And understandably so. Taleb has a distinctive and fresh view of looking at the world through the lens of an emperic skeptic.

The Black Swan — Nassim Nicholas Taleb (2007) — 444 pages

He also likes to write, think out loud, and argue why he is right (and others are wrong). He greatly admires Kahneman, Poincaré and Mandelbrot. But he also dislikes a lot of things: the traditional — and wrong — application of the Bell Curve, the Nobel prize, suits, non-erudite people and a lot of people who work in the field of economics and statistical analysis.

This book came out just before the financial crisis. And people thought the crisis was proof of the Black Swan theory. But alas, that is exactly the wrong conclusion to make, and this is usually made by people who have not fully grasped the Black Swan concept (Taleb argues this crisis was anything but a Black Swan, because he actually DID see it coming). Either way, it did help popularize the book and therefore Taleb (who is less interested in making friends than being right).

Taleb is obviously a very bright and gifted man. He his able to distill his original scientific ideas into more or less popular prose. In my 2010 edition of the book there is a post-essay ‘On Robustness and Fragility’. Which is written after the initial success of The Black Swan. But Taleb uses this essay mainly to double down on why he was right. Which is a bit tiresome.

But nonetheless I enjoyed reading this book: it is written by someone who clearly enjoys writing and explaining things. But mainly because The Black Swan offers you a different view of the world which is always a good thing!


Originally published at Jan van den Berg.

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