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The Black Swan

The Black Swan



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This is one of those books that has a hard time living up to its premise, which is an intriguing one. It is a look at how our lives are affected by the highly improbable but consequential event or "the black swan." The black swan is the unexpected thing that changes everything. The author cites a number of examples in the book, the most prominent being 9/11.

This is one of those books where you feel like you're swimming in mud to get to the other side, and you hope it's worth it when you get there. Taleb gets bogged down in so much insider complaining about the Nobel committee and other intellectuals who aren't as intellectual as the author, blah, blah, blah. He calls the media "industrial producers of the distortion," and says that "forecasting by bureaucrats tends to be used for anxiety relief rather than for adequate policy making." (Wait - he may be onto something there.)

But then you'll stumble on a gem of a thought like this - "our highest currency is respect" - and it will stop you cold. And isn't that what you want from a book like this? You want it to show you the world in a new way, to prompt thought, to challenge assumptions.

The Black Swan does all that, but you have to wade through some muck to get there. Like the author admits in the book, "the problem with experts is that they do not know what they do not know." With a caveat for an overly academic style and too much whining, I do recommend The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable.

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