Shane Deichman reviews Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable and finds it wanting:
Perhaps it’s my naïveté (or perhaps that I’m a product of the California public school system), but I honestly don’t see our civilization marching toward “Extremistan”. Quite the opposite: While our awareness of remote events has increased, and our networks have grown exponentially, I believe that the diffuse topology of our networks actually dampens the impact of an extreme event. Consider the “Butterfly Effect”. Do you really think a butterfly flapping its wings in Jakarta is going to eventually cause a hurricane in New York City? Or do you think the minor perturbation is absorbed locally without cascading into some kind of resonance? Yes, there are examples that illustrate the dire consequences of unplanned resonance. Taleb (who waffles at the end of his book as half hyperskeptic, half intransigently certain) abandons the Gaussian bell curve, yet — with only a single mention of Albert-László Barabási — firmly embraces Power Law scale invariance as normative.Despite Taleb’s too-casual treatment of scale, I think he would agree with George E.P. Box’s statement (c. 1987) that “…[A]ll models are wrong, but some are useful.” Abandoning our dogmatic devotion to certainty is essential in any creative, innovative enterprise — and can reveal hidden opportunities, and hidden abilities.
Read the whole thing here.
Unlike most reviewers, Shane could go head-to-head with Taleb on things mathematical ( though you hardly need a math background to understand The Black Swan) and Shane is right that networks that are intrinsically and generally resilient are better suited to enduring unexpected, system perturbing, black swans.
Hope to have my review up Sunday evening.