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The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

A black swan is a highly improbable event with three principal characteristics: It is unpredictable; it carries a massive impact; and, after the fact, we concoct an explanation that makes it appear less random, and more predictable, than it was. The astonishing success of Google was a black swan; so was 9/11. For Nassim Nicholas Taleb, black swans underlie almost everything about our world, from the rise of religions to events in our own personal lives.

Why do we not acknowledge the phenomenon of black swans until after they occur? Part of the answer, according to Taleb, is that humans are hardwired to learn specifics when they should be focused on generalities. We concentrate on things we already know and time and time again fail to take into consideration what we don’t know. We are, therefore, unable to truly estimate opportunities, too vulnerable to the impulse to simplify, narrate, and categorize, and not open enough to rewarding those who can imagine the “impossible.”


Finished: Nov 2020

Rating (out of 5): ⭐⭐⭐

A lot to think about. He got his point across in the first few chapters about the Black Swan and why we should care, but I kept expecting more evidence behind his theories to come later in the book and it never came. The second half of the book loses itself and becomes a bit of a rambling mess.

His writing style is too high-and-mighty and he spends too much time name-dropping famous people to show us that he knows them, only to dump on them and their ideas to show us how much better he is than them. Taleb’s personality shines through in his writing, and his personality seems intelligent, but not like someone I’d actually enjoy spending any time with.

Nonetheless, the ideas are super valid and the Black Swan theory of analyzing important events seems like a hugely valuable tool to have in my toolbox.

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