Review of The Black Swan

The Black SwanI recently finished reading my initial book of the new year, The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. Though it is still early, I’m willing to bet that this may be the most interesting book I read all year, despite being the first.

As summarized by the front flap of the dust jacket,

A Black Swan is a highly improbable event with three characteristics: It is unpredictable; it carries a massive impact; and, after the fact, we concoct an explanation that makes it appear less random, and more predictable, than it was.

That last point that is most vicious. Human nature drives us to simplify, categorize, and explain, which in turn exposes us to further Black Swan events in the future. The book examines this flawed method of thinking through analysis of psychology, history, economics, mathematics, and other literary and scientific areas of study.

Its point is made primarily through anecdotal evidence and narrative story telling, a technique that is almost necessitated by the topic at hand. Anyone seeking hard science is likely to walk away disappointed and unconvinced. However, those very same people stand to gain the most from reading The Black Swan with an open mind.

After driving home the central thesis of his book, Mr. Taleb offers a brief chapter of advice on how to operate in a world filled with uncertainty. The reading is not light, and can be challenging at times, but it is very rewarding and promotes a different, yet insightful, perspective.


January 26, 2008 at 7:32 PM

After reading your twitter entry where you said The Black Swan was an excellent book, I ordered it and hopefully it will be here shortly. Looking more forward to it after reading your review. Thanks!

Lonna Hanson
January 28, 2008 at 5:55 PM

Glad you liked the Black Swan, Jared. I have a feeling it would be a bit too challenging of a book for me to read. You know us elementary teachers we like things simple, entertaining, and a small teachable lesson. I might be tempted to read parts of it, though.

Dr Paradise
December 20, 2008 at 7:54 PM

If you accept suggestions I would like to offer a couple. If that is not allowed here, I am sorry, I won’t be offended if you delete my entry.

My offereings are:
A Beckoning From Paradise ISBN 1439206554
Secrets of Paradise ISBN 1439201900

Dr Paradise
December 20, 2008 at 8:03 PM

Ah ha, I read your information after offering the above readings. I am on the Aspera emailing list. The books above must be about you, these books deal with a young man your age, a technology wizard working for a huge software company in Seattle. The main character, Harry Raven, is unaware of his heritage and is called home through mysterious dreams to move his true family link into the modern world by installing communications equipment etc.l

Other than the book, when is technology going to move ahead into the next generation whereby we can get rid of our cumbersome batteries? As a youngster, we used to store a mighty charge in capacitors. I have also wondered at the marvel of the free source, albeit weak source of energy in the ever flowing magnetic field around the earth. If this double poled power can turn the needle of a compass, why can’t it be intensified with our new-age nanotechnology?

And secondly, I am glad I read your “about” section.
Dr Robert E mcGinnis

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