Jack of all Trades, Master of None
I think his description of the "State of the World" is quite good. It fails in it's conclusions though.
The "present day assessment" rang mostly true.
I like how he captures the voice of the author. It adds a nice familiarity to it.
How someone I highly respect can still turn out to be deeply flawed. See next section.
More of a negative note here: Over the previous books I developed a huge respecte for Taleb. I found myself also nodding along quite a lot with what he described as the state of the world, but where he lost me was in his conclusions and interpretations.
Just two reasons.
He rightfully admires "the ancients" (Romans, Greek) for their philosophical accomplishment. Having read Lucrecius "The Nature of things" I was in similar awe and surprise. Having said that, to extend their philosophical accomplishments into that of modern science strikes me as ludicrous.
The second thing is one specific example: He writes about how can't we know that eating three solid meals doesn't have any benefits (in comparison to the recent recommendation to "graze" instead of stuffing yourself three times a day). The problem with this argument is that the three meals a day are falling back onto the industrial age, when life and time started to be dominated by the clock, not human nature. This flies straight into the face of his own assertion that he doesn't eat anything that isn't at least 2000 years old (I could now ask why 2000 years? But that's just nitpicking) because everything since then is "tainted".
I admit, it makes me a bit sad to have gotten the impression that Taleb is a bit of a Neo-Luddite.
The author has strong opinions that are not backed up by facts. He paints with a broad brush, dismissing people and institutions, and doesn't bother to document good reasons for those opinions. He writes as if he is delivering a novel and original view, but it's not grounded in much. The substance and evidence that he does provide is not well connected to the leaps of logic that he takes in his argument.
If you've read any of his other work, you know there are a lot of people in the world whom Nassim Taleb does not like, and they feature prominently in his writing. The fourth time he described Harvard as "Soviet" (which occurred in the first fifteen minutes of this book), I concluded that Taleb has lost his bearings and drifted off (I fear permanently) into incoherent ranting, and have reluctantly written him off.
What's to say? By this point you either love or hate Taleb, though I have yet to read or hear of any good refutations to his points.
For those who hate him, all I seem to hear is that they don't care for his personality. Oh well. I obviously think very highly of his writing even though I wouldn't agree with every opinion or view. Overall though he's a breath of fresh air in a world otherwise given over to bread and circuses.
ha2tim is a SelfMastery Coach, NationBuilder, Urban Shaman, and Hip-Hop Philospha
This is simply one of the best books I have ever read. The insights are powerful and ideas can be applied to your life.
What made it least enjoyable was some small group of cretins at Random House who decided they should censor various words with which they have trouble with.
I suggest to anyone who can't handle the word bull $hit and the like should go back to reading picture books.
Random House, you should be ashamed.
He performed great.
What if, instead of adding things to compensate for the woes of the world, we subtract.
Taleb makes a strong argument for... Well, makes several strong arguments. From via negativa to a bit of dietary advice that's more eloquently put here than in any fad diet book, there's all sorts of observations and arguments that can change your life once you embrace what they mean. Do you understand optionality, and the importance of shocks to systems? Do you benefit more from walking a mile or running a mile? What defining characteristic is missing from "paleo diet"? Why do bones strengthen from use but porcelain doesn't?
And you might even get a feel for why humans will always pilot passenger airplanes from the flight deck, no matter how much the MBA's in the office want to do away with them.
Innovative, fascinating, life-changing
Freakonomics - because they both challenge our view of the world and show how what we think might be true, frequently isn't.
His style is unusual although well matched to the book. I enjoyed it and as with the best Audible books, the experience of listening to the book has far more impact than reading the book.
That chaos breeds flexibility.
I listened to this book 4-5 months ago and I find myself still thinking about it. There is a lot of very profound insight here and it is a book that I will re-listen to.
Black Swan is the Masterpiece by Taleb.
This book is a massive "Reversion toward the Mean".
A Total And Utter Tour de Force of Horseshit, on a massive list of subject's Taleb is utterly incompetent, holding neophyte status in.
Too many times, the vast majority of times Taleb enters subject areas assuming incompetence in the field based in his limited knowledge of the field, from diet to diabetes. Nassim assumes incompetence he may have read from the editorial pages of the WSJ, but not the actual journals of the subjects he discusses.
Just one example, on the one hand he ridicules the NY 20 oz soda ban, no the other he assumes dietitians and pediatricians don't know the dangers of juices and sodas.
He attacks "liberal" economists who generally agree with his proposals, as if Stiglitz doesn't know "Agency" problems, and hasn't railed against them, as Taleb himself has.
This book is a massive attack on "Straw Men", things that aren't true and no one believes.
At Total Waste of your Time and Money.
if you wish to read Taleb, competent in his subject matter, buy Black Swan.
Yes, of course - Taleb is writing some of the most applicable and important information available.
Fooled By Randomness and The Black Swan are the first two parts of what might as well be a trilogy.
I'm curious if I was to purchase the book in book form - would Random House have felt the need to protect me from the occasional expletives that are scattered throughout the text to emphasize a point? Because they did with the audio book. Not only did they bleep out anything likely to be considered offensive to a child or maiden aunt of the nineteenth century, they bleeped it out with a BLEEP that is 3-4 times as loud as the rest of the audio - just so you'll be really aware that they protected your delicate ears from the bad words. This has the effect of taking one completely out of the book. The first time it happened was with the word 'bullsh*t' - a pretty innocuous word in this day and age - and I had to rewind half a dozen times to prove to my disbelieving mind that that had really happened. the answer was yes: someone - some pathetic, pewling, pustule at Random House felt that I couldn't be trusted to hear the word 'bullsh*t' without driving off the road in a fit of adolescent angst. I spent the next several minutes in a near-paroxysm of rage that I had been misled into believing I was purchasing the unedited, un-bowdlerized words of an author who - among other things - is one of the leading proponents of what are commonly termed libertarian values. You know, freedom and sh*t. If RH wanted to censor the f*cking book, they should fucking come right out and say so instead of pretending they didn't. I'm deeply offended by this behavior and sincerely hope that Taleb or his agent hears of it and is able to rectify it. Shame on Random House.