Friday, June 26, 2009

Black Swan (Nassim Nicholas Taleb)

I've read this once, and it deserves a second reading. A large part of what he's saying is what Mandelbrot already told us in 'The Misbehaviour of Markets'. I.e that dice games aren't a good model for how large connected systems work, which means that all our ideas about statistics and risk in the real world are not only wrong but actively harmful.

But there's more going on here. He has some psychological insights into our tendency to make stories out of past random sequences. There's an outstanding paragraph where he predicts the coming of the current credit crunch very accurately. He'd probably tell me that that doesn't prove anything, because if enough people write enough horror crash scenarios then after the event one of them will prove to have been spot on. But illustrating the power of one of his primary ideas, I'm going to ignore that very valid and obvious point, and hail the man as a genius for that one paragraph.

Anyway, this may or may not be a life-changing book. I simply can't tell after the one reading. I'm going to read it again. It may be a work of genius, it may just be 'The misbehaviour of markets for dummies', with some rants tacked on. I'll get back to you. It's pretty entertaining anyway. Those that like this sort of thing will like this very much.

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