Book Review: The Black Swan, The Impact of the Highly Improbable by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

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The book is quite enlightening in terms of conveying message as to how the world works. Things are not as easy as they appear to be. We are stuck in a complex web of randomness, which our mind is incapable of comprehending, a higher dimension so to say. Change by nature is erratic unlike constant, which we actually think it to be and such events are termed as Black Swans by Taleb.

This book is an embodiment of idea, “what we don’t know is more important than what we know” and that human brain is incapable of comprehending and digesting randomness. More random the information, higher will be the dimensionality more difficult it’ll be to summarize into the brain.

It (the brain) can only figure out sequence of events and the subsequent outcome. Right at the onset in the prologue, the author converges what the mass thinks of life as a whole and how convenient it is to see life as the cumulative effect of a handful of significant shocks.

History or past experiences only give an illusion of the future events, which can totally be different from the expected. He substantiates this line of thought with the famous turkey example. A turkey that is being fed for, let’s say, hundred days thinks life will be like that for the coming days as well but then all of a sudden it gets killed only to be eaten by people.

The author corroborates his line of thoughts by claiming that categorizing always produces reduction in true complexity. Keeping the mind open helps in combating the distortion of reality which human mind is master at creating. Advocating further, Taleb goes on to say that logic overestimates the odds of randomness.

Academicians try to reach conclusions by only samples, then they try making assumptions about what they did not see, and hence they fall into ‘round trip fallacy’. Very subtly, Taleb explods the myth, which the Wall Street has been propagating since ages, with the use statistics, bell curves and Black-Scholes theory to sell portfolio allocation.

All the points put forth by him are quite convincing, just like aether permeate all throughout space, randomness exists universally be it theory of chaos, butterfly effect, decision making, theoretical physics, higher dimensionality, projections, (financial) market, life, hope, projects, architecture, forecasts, job, work, engineering, dynamics, mathematics, economics, serendipities (discoveries), natural calamities everywhere.

After introducing his readers to the ‘unseen’ and ‘unknown’ randomness, Taleb doesn’t leave them alone but shows them light by telling them to question “the because” especially when one suspect the “silent evidence”, since the absence of the silent evidence distorts reality. Only when one question the “because”, one would touch the boundaries of the true-true else one will remain in the citadel of falsehood thinking that they are enjoying the bounty of trueness. Period.

Admirable work of serious philosophy, the book is bible for those of us who are thinker, anti dogmatic, skeptical & empiricist, while a waste time & energy for others.

About Pooja Kashyap

A CPD certified Fitness Trainer, Pooja also likes to spend time reading and blogging the latest research and discoveries in science and how technology is shaping the world. Besides writing, she enjoys reviewing books and taking interviews of creative/innovative people. Currently, she is located in Noida, India, where she actively participates in marathons as well. She is also on Quora l Twitter and LinkedIn.