Summary of The Black Swan

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getAbstract International Book Award Winner 2007

10 Overall

8 Applicability

10 Innovation

10 Style


According to critic Harold Bloom, Hamlet’s predicament is not “that he thinks too much” but rather that “he thinks too well,” being ultimately “unable to rest in illusions of any kind.” The same could be said for philosopher, essayist and trader Nassim Nicholas Taleb, who finds something rotten in misguided yet supremely confident investment gurus, traders, hedge fund managers, Wall Street bankers, M.B.A.s, CEOs, Nobel-winning economists and others who claim that they can predict the future and explain the past. Like everyone else, says Taleb, these so-called “experts” fail to appreciate “black swans”: highly consequential but unlikely events that render predictions and standard explanations worse than worthless. Taleb’s style is personal and literary, but his heterodox insights are rigorous (if sometimes jolted by authorial filigree). This combination makes for a thrilling, disturbing, contentious and unforgettable book on chance and randomness. While Taleb offers strong medicine some readers may find too bitter at times, getAbstract prescribes it to anyone who wants a powerful inoculation against gullibility.

In this summary, you will learn

  • Why highly significant yet unpredictable events, called “black swans,” are underappreciated;
  • Why people continually see misleading patterns in data; and
  • How to embrace randomness and come to terms with black swans.

About the Author

Nassim Nicholas Taleb, a former derivatives trader, is Dean’s Professor in the Sciences of Uncertainty at the University of Massachusetts and teaches at New York University’s Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences. He also wrote Fooled by Randomness.



When All Swans Were White

Before 1697, teachers confidently taught European schoolchildren that all swans were white. They had little reason to think otherwise, since every swan ever examined had the same snowy plumage. But then Dutch explorer Willem de Vlamingh landed in Australia. Among the many unlikely creatures down under – odd, hopping marsupials called kangaroos, furry duck-billed platypuses, teddy bear-like koalas – Vlamingh found dark feathered birds that looked remarkably like swans. Black swans? Indeed. Once observed, they were as unmistakable as they had been unimaginable, and they forced Europeans to revise forever their concept of “swan.” In time, black swans came to seem ordinary.

This pattern is common. Just because you haven’t seen a black swan, doesn’t mean that there are no black swans. Unlikely events seem impossible when they lie in the unknown or in the future. But after they happen, people assimilate them into their conception of the world. The extraordinary becomes ordinary, and “experts” such as policy pundits and market prognosticators kick themselves because they didn’t predict the (now seemingly obvious) occurrence of the (then) ...

More on this topic

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The Facts Are True, the News Is Fake
The Most Intolerant Wins
Fooled by Randomness

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    The experts or "gurues" of the future are unknown today
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    Edward Zhang 3 years ago
    Need to read the book. A lot of complicated concepts
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    Rhett Jones 6 years ago
    Appreciated the closing comment on how we are all statistical outliers.
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    Rady Fahmy 7 years ago
    An absolutely brilliant book that steers away from fads and challenges you with intellect and mathematical and philosophical rigour.
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    robert Demers 8 years ago
    Despite your information above you are not compatable with Kindle!
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      Guest 8 years ago
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