The Black Swan

By Nassim Nicholas Taleb,

Book cover of The Black Swan

Book description

The most influential book of the past seventy-five years: a groundbreaking exploration of everything we know about what we don’t know, now with a new section called “On Robustness and Fragility.”

A black swan is a highly improbable event with three principal characteristics: It is unpredictable; it carries a massive…

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Why read it?

7 authors picked The Black Swan as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

I've had this on my "want to read" list for eons but only finally got around to it. I found this a highly informative book without really bogging down into a bunch of math or other fine details. 

In fact, that's kind of the whole point of it. His writing style is also quite hilarious and I would suspect we might hit it off, if I was ever fortunate enough to meet the guy, a lot of this stuff sounds like something I would say, though, of course, he thought of it first and went the distance chasing down these…

A “Black Swan” is a highly unlikely event that occurs with massive consequences. Think of 9/11 or the astonishing success of Google or Amazon.

The main issue relative to Black Swans, as explained by Talib, is that after the fact people are drawn to concocting detailed explanations that make them seem less random, and more predictable. In other words, people develop causal explanations that are completely wrong, but sound reasonable, and will then use them to predict the future.

In the words of Nate Silver, they invent a “signal” to explain what is in reality “noise.” These explanations also create…

Reading The Black Swan changed the way I perceive the world.

The book explores the impact of rare and unpredictable events on our lives and the limitations of our ability to predict and comprehend them. The author, Taleb, argues that humans often rely too heavily on past experiences or patterns to anticipate the future and fail to account for unexpected occurrences.

These unexpected events are called "Black Swans" and are defined by three characteristics: (1) it is unpredictable, (2) it has a massive impact, and (3) it is explainable in retrospect. I’ve read The Black Swan three times and I…

From John's list on novices to learn about investing.

Taleb’s central idea is that it is impossible to predict the extreme impact of rare and unpredictable outlier events. His corollary is that we need to focus on building resiliency vs. better prediction capabilities. This notion of creating resilient organizations is central to our book but one which I see playing out over and over again as we experience wave after wave of disruptive, and seemingly improvable, events. 

From Jonathan's list on responding to disruption and uncertainty.

I’m listing this book first because it is the most important, by far. An essay on Taleb by Malcolm Gladwell titled Blowing Up introduced me to Taleb’s way of thinking. It was a revelation, connecting many hazy thoughts I had swirling in my head. If you want to understand Strong Towns thinking, start with Black Swan.

From Charles' list on thinking like a Strong Towns advocate.

This huge bestseller is a trailblazer on many levels. For one, the author has a keen sense of humor and relates his theories to his history growing up in Lebanon. Taleb is in my opinion one of the smartest people on the planet. He breaks new ground in the analysis of risk by explaining and expanding on the concept of fractal geometry and how it relates to what we know and don’t know about risk. I recommend you read this and all of Taleb’s books.

I read this book after I wrote Petrarch’s War, it was recommended to me by an economist. I felt like Taleb was speaking to me directly. It is clearly written and emphasized the role of Black Swan events in moving history and events along. As a professional historian, and especially an economic historian, I found his argument very compelling—and this was before COVID 19, the ultimate Black Swan. Taleb rails—in often humorous but always intelligent ways- about the limits of predicting events based on the past, and how the human mind is set up to do just…

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