16 January 2012

Book Review

Fooled By Randomness by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Reading The Black Swan is one of the things that inspired my blogging.  But I had not, until now, read The Black Swan’s predecessor, Fooled by Randomness.  It is an insightful, engaging read, to say the least.

Taleb is good at describing probability and chance in very clear, easily understood terms, which enables the reader to quickly grasp his points.  Trying to summarize the book would essentially require rewriting it, as Taleb is very efficient with words.  The basic gist of the book is that chance plays a greater role in life than most humans are comfortable with, success is as much a matter of chance as anything else, and that one is better off betting on the improbable because mankind’s sense of probability is, to use a word, wack.

Taleb provides insightful takes on law, economics, trading, finance, and philosophy.  He is very thoughtful and thought-provoking, and manages to cut through a good portion of the nonsense that covers the unsightly its of human reality.  He writes quite a bit about Karl Popper and his critique of science.  Basically, man does not know much, and knows even less than he thinks he does.

As such, most of that which passes for expertise is simply nonsense.  Humans are bad at thinking, and are particularly bad at thinking about randomness.  We humans also have a tendency to search for patterns, which leads to situations wherein we falsely assume correlation to have a causal effect.  Alternatively, we may think we see patterns where none actually exist.

We at Le Cygne Gris highly recommend Fooled By Randomness.  It has a potent combination of insight, humor, and education.  You will be wiser for reading this.

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