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The Black Swan

 I finally started reading Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s  The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable today and I’m already impressed with it. Taleb’s very straightforward in attacking the limitations of Bell Curve assumptions and the common assumptions regarding the extent of uncertainty ( most people, unless they are futurists or, say, design computer models, seldom contemplate questions of deep uncertainty that might be in play). The book is really a tutorial on epistemology.

I’ll review this one when I’m finished.

10 Responses to “The Black Swan”

  1. Moon Says:

    The scope is broad and deep.  I read it last autumn, a focused yet casual first pass over the course of 2-3 months.  I am going to need a deeper second pass to really get what I need out of it.  It just touches on too many ideas and topics that I know very close to nothing about.  Looking forward to zen’s  incisive distillation.
    The hobbyist in me was constantly looking for a way to quantify the fat-tail / power-law into a workable mechanism for a wargame model.  My tentative conclusion is that Taleb says it’s possible for mild-strain chaos (grey swan), but not for the wild randomness of the black swan.  Please advise if you grok that bit.

  2. vimothy Says:

    I’ve just (last night) finished it — it’s a brilliant, exciting book!


    It seems to me that a quantifiable black swan would be a grey swan by definition.

  3. Moon Says:

    vimothy, yes I think I backed into that conclusion, as much as I didn’t want to hear it.  ;-\  Still, even if not quantifiable, can you imagine any way to model it qualitatively in the context of a discrete event sim?  i.e. how do you get your model to say that *something* unexpected but very rare happened, even if the quantification is dismissed?

  4. Jay Says:

    Definitely looking forward to your take. Like moon, I’m going to have to re-read it (if I ever get it back!) to fully "get it."

  5. Moon Says:

    Here’s a Taleb-recommended journal:

    soob, my tactic is:  alternate my reservations at two local libraries, so that I am always queued up to get one of the copies.  ;-\  (Or maybe you mean you lent out your own copy and it might not be returned?)  Another option is to check out the 12-disc audio, burn the MP3 tracks, and listen at leisure.

  6. TDL Says:

    I thought you all would enjoy the these links:
    First, Taleb on EconTalk.  He discussed his ideas with Russ Roberts.

    Second, Taleb’s own site.

    I enjoyed his first (actually second) book and look forward to reading this one, eventually.  Being a former trader I am glad to know that there are intelligent people in finance (although he no longer trades or "runs" money.)  Taleb was very effective in bursting a lot of intellectual models on the Street, too bad he no longer comments on the markets.


  7. zen Says:

    Grazia TDL ! – going to post up soon on another site of yours 😉

  8. TDL Says:

       Looking forward to it.  Thanks again.


  9. Seerov Says:

    I own this book but haven’t started reading it yet.  Perhaps you can provide us with a review once you have completed it? 

  10. zen Says:


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