The Black Swan – The impact of the highly improbable, is a book written by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. It is the perfect follow up to Thinking, fast and slow, as Kahneman and Taleb cross-reference each other throughout the two books.
What then, is a Black Swan? In Taleb’s words: “First, it is an outlier, as it lies outside the realm of regular expectations, because nothing in the past can convincingly point to its possibility. Second, it carries an extreme impact (unlike the bird). Third, in spite of its outlier status, human nature makes us concoct explanations for its occurrence after the fact, making it explainable and predictable. I stop and summarize the triplet: rarity, extreme impact, and retrospective (though not prospective) predictability.”
The Black Swans live in Extremistan, whereas most of us humans seem to believe we live our entire lives in Mediocristan: “Mediocristan is where we must endure the tyranny of the collective, the routine, the obvious, and the predicted; Extremistan is where we are subjected to the tyranny of the singular, the accidental, the unseen, and the unpredicted.”
As with Thinking, fast and slow, this is quite the read, not easy, often times mind-boggling to say the least, but greatly helped along by the dry humor inserted here and there – making it a challenging but fun read!
Taleb doesn’t seem to leave a single stone unturned, yet he is clear about the danger in pretending to know what one does not know: “My biggest problem with the educational system lies precisely in that it forces students to squeeze explanations out of subject matters and shames them for withholding judgment, for uttering the ‘I don’t know’.”
With this final book reflection of the year, a year of reaching my goal of reading one hundred books (this one!) as well as reading – and blogging about – 26 Swedish and 26 English books that I decided upon at the start of the year, I am happy to put this book reading challenge to behind me. Urged along by Taleb who writes read books are far less valuable than unread ones I will happily continue to purchase and borrow books, matching my library of read books with my antilibrary, of as yet unread books.
“Seneca ended his essays with vale, often mistranslated as ‘farewell’. It has the same root as ‘value’ and ‘valor’ and means both ‘be strong (i.e., robust)’ and ‘be worthy’. Vale.”
Indeed a fitting way to end this year of lots of reading and no less than 52+ book reflections (counting the Swedish ones as well as the English):
The book I am blogging about is part of the book-reading challenge I’ve set for myself during 2018, to read and blog about 26 Swedish and 26 English books, one book every week, books that I already own.