Nassim Nicholas Taleb: The Black Swan

“!!”: A wonderfully insightful book, strolls though history, academia, psychology, cognitive science, probability theory, philosophy, statistics and more. The back of the book claims that the book _”will change the way you look at the world”_, and it does.

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.

Taleb argues that events and life itself are far more random than we perceive them to be – the human brain just isn’t able to cope up with the complexities of the modern world, most of which have sprung up in the last couple of hundred years, while our brains still haven’t evolved much further than the hunter-gatherer stage. This is the most interesting part of the book, where Taleb discusses various studies on how the human brain processes and perceives information, probability and data. We fit explanations to events post-facto – but the world is not so easily squeezable into the theories we built to describe the past and than extrapolate to predict the future.

Our brains are wired in a such a way that we construct linear narratives, or theories about events, in an attempt to simplify and understand – but real life is not linear, and these stories about how events happen are too simplified to be of much use when the next Black Swan comes about.

It’s the unexpected rare events with high impact which have shaped the world today, and as the world gets increasingly complex, the rare events are increasing in frequency and impact.

bq. A small number of black swans explain almost everything in our world, from the success of ideas and religions, to the dynamics of historical events, to elements of our own personal life. Ever since we left the Pleistocene, some ten millennia ago, the effect of these Black Swans has been increasing. It started accelerating during the industrial revolution, as the world started getting more complicated, while ordinary events, the ones we study and discuss and try to predict from reading the newspapers, have become increasingly inconsequential.

h4. links

* “Author’s website”:

* “Amazon”:

* “Fooled by Randomness”:

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