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The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable | [Nassim Nicholas Taleb]

The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable

Maverick thinker Nassim Nicholas Taleb had an illustrious career on Wall Street before turning his focus to his black swan theory. Not all swans are white, and not all events, no matter what the experts think, are predictable. Taleb shows that black swans, like 9/11, cannot be foreseen and have an immeasurable impact on the world.
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Publisher's Summary

Maverick thinker Nassim Nicholas Taleb had an illustrious career on Wall Street before turning his focus to his black swan theory. Not all swans are white, and not all events, no matter what the experts think, are predictable. Taleb shows that black swans, like 9/11, cannot be foreseen and have an immeasurable impact on the world.

©2007 Nassim Nicholas Taleb; (P)2007 Recorded Books, LLC

What the Critics Say

"[Taleb] administers a severe thrashing to MBA- and Nobel Prize-credentialed experts who make their living from economic forecasting." (Booklist)
"The hubris of predictions - and our perpetual surprise when the not-predicted happens - are themes of Nassim Nicholas Taleb's engaging new book....It concerns the occurrence of the improbable, the power of rare events and the author's lament that 'in spite of the empirical record we continue to project into the future as if we were good at it.'" (The New York Times)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.0 (2381 )
5 star
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4.0 (1185 )
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Story
4.1 (1190 )
5 star
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4 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
 (35)
Performance
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  •  
    Laura Salt Lake City, UT, United States 08-14-12
    Laura Salt Lake City, UT, United States 08-14-12 Member Since 2008
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    61
    1
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Don't Waste Your Time (really)"
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    Another book.


    What was most disappointing about Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s story?

    The Black Swan has a few pertinent ideas rephrased and repackaged throughout the book. However, if The Black Swan was reduced to real a discussion of those ideas - it would have taken, perhaps, one chapter to thoroughly cover the topics. The other 99% of the book explains the author's prejudices and his evaluation of his own genius. Apparently, in Taleb's estimation almost every expert on any variety of subjects are stupid, lazy, lack imagination, and focus. Luckily, Taleb percieves himself as truly original and one of the few clear thinkers of our generation...and he tells you about it over and over again...while throwing in anecdotes of how other great thinkers adore his ideas. I was hoping for something like I found in Malcolm Gladwell's books... clear interpretations of quirky phenomen. This is the only negative review of a Audible.com book I've ever written... so really... skip it... you'll be happy you did.


    What aspect of David Chandler’s performance would you have changed?

    I think David Chandler is probably a reasonably good narrator, but the book itself was so bad that I don't think there is much he could have done to improve the experience. My guess is he interpreted the author's intent and words as they were meant to be interpreted... it's not Chandler's fault Taleb is a terrible writer.


    What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

    Disappointment


    Any additional comments?

    I wish I had my credit back.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Wolfe Denver, CO 07-30-12
    Wolfe Denver, CO 07-30-12 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
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    5
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    "Excellent and thought provoking"
    Would you listen to The Black Swan again? Why?

    Well worth listening to a second time. Impossible to absorb all the implications first time around


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Miroslaw Giby, Poland 05-17-12
    Miroslaw Giby, Poland 05-17-12 Member Since 2013

    I +1 Books.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    4
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    "Great concept, but too long."
    Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

    Yes and no. It's too long. The author shows many examples, but starts to make advices and ideas how to use the "black swan" idea at the far, far end of the book.


    What could Nassim Nicholas Taleb have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

    The book should be 2/3 times shorter. Less examples, more actionable steps.


    What does David Chandler bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    David is a good narrator. I prefer when an author read a book, but it's ok.


    Was The Black Swan worth the listening time?

    Yes and no. Yes for idea. No for too much examples.


    Any additional comments?

    I recommend to read this book (not listen) and skip chapters.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robert Brunswick, TN, United States 03-11-12
    Robert Brunswick, TN, United States 03-11-12 Member Since 2011

    I wish Audible would provide a better product. I continually have to go back and try to find my place to listen. Audible apparently disables the ability to burn a book to even one disk so I can listen to it. The iPod just doesn't do well on audiobooks (probably unless you buy them from Apple). It is impossible to get a book burned to CD so I can listen to it and it never plays right on the iPod.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Good concepts, a little wordy, worth it/"


    The ideas I obtained may listening worth my time. I got some great ideas. It was a little frustrating to have to listen to some of the non-essential talk, but I got a lot of good ideas.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    sharon 03-11-12
    sharon 03-11-12
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    4
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    "Intelligent and Makes so much sense..."
    What made the experience of listening to The Black Swan the most enjoyable?

    The insight provided is very inspirational... applies to aspects of life other than investing.


    What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

    We live in Extreme-a-stan.


    Have you listened to any of David Chandler’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    performer is fantastic


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Matthew 02-25-12
    Matthew 02-25-12

    I'm a lover of whimsical, colourful, revealing and honest writing, whether fiction or non-fiction.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    21
    ratings
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    19
    3
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    "Fascinating book"

    This is a colourful, accessible, lively book, with a clear central thesis, elaborated with plethora of interesting stories and fascinating examples. Thoroughly recommended.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michael 01-12-12
    Michael 01-12-12 Member Since 2011
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    9
    1
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Basking in the glow of his own importance"
    What disappointed you about The Black Swan?

    A meandering, discursive work by an author who is VERY impressed with himself.


    What was most disappointing about Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s story?

    The use of a fictional character to


    Would you listen to another book narrated by David Chandler?

    I have no problem with Chandler


    What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

    Anger and disappointment,


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Steve 01-10-12
    Steve 01-10-12 Member Since 2014
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    4
    1
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Irritating, compelling"
    Would you listen to The Black Swan again? Why?

    Yes. The book is, substantially, a single sustained argument and I look forward to re-listening to and re-engaging with the argument


    Any additional comments?

    Ok, so he's arrogant! He knows his stuff.... This is a stimulating and thought provoking book that will shatter your certainty about uncertainty. Many reviewers seem to have missed the point of the book. If you're feeling open-minded, give it a listen.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Edmund Santa Rosa, CA, United States 12-16-11
    Edmund Santa Rosa, CA, United States 12-16-11
    ratings
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    9
    1
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    "Great book, performance can be toe-curling"

    A fabulous book that provocatively challenges the status quo. The bombast renders it all the more enjoyable for me.

    However, it is very nearly ruined by the narrator's treatment of foreign names or words. Before each, Chandler pauses, winding himself up for Olympian feats of pronunciation—which he then almost invariably mangles. His excessive flourish makes these names and phrases stand out in an ostentatious way, all the more awkward because of the mispronunciation. This does Taleb a disservice. Being cosmopolitan, I imagine he intended rather more of a natural tone for names and authors he holds familiar and dear.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    andrew Bountiful, UT, United States 11-25-11
    andrew Bountiful, UT, United States 11-25-11
    HELPFUL VOTES
    177
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    46
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    8
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    "A Lot of Smart Things Said by a Very Smug Man"

    The trouble I decided at some point past midway, is that while providing a good, nuanced performance as narrator, Chandler was making me dislike Taleb. He came off as rather arrogant, self-important, mean. I do not think that is who Taleb is, nor do I think that is the only way to take his book. Had I read the book myself, my inner voice would have been much more modest, less assertive, a man of curiosity rather than certainty. This is a book after all about being uncertain, asking questions, looking for deeper meanings and answers. Not knowing anything. But the Taleb given us here hits us over the head, insults, sneers, comes off not as an agnostic of data and economics but a counter-priest. Still, the reading is vibrant, consistent, passionate. I do not doubt the narrator put a lot of effort and thought into how he would perform the work. It is much preferable to a monotone. Every Shakespeare part can be played many ways, so I suppose the same is true of reading audio books. The book itself is certainly intelligent, entertaining, inciteful and eclectic. Some of these ideas seemed rather obvious to me, but perhaps not to most, as people do invest heavily in the stock market and wind up crashing with the market. I loved the thought experiments, some of the anecdotes. I will read more Taleb some day, I believe. This is not a how-to invest book though. At the end he offers a few suggestions about how to invest and how he does, but that is not the heart of the book. Nor is this the book I expected. From the back cover it makes one anticipate that the book will be about why not to over-react to highly-improbably events- such as 9/11. Which was an incredibly complicated plot that probably could not happen again. Yet we prepare for new terrorist strikes as if they will do just what they did before. 9/11 happens, as Taleb says, because it seemed impossible. If they had tried something anyone could think would work, it would not have worked. So I expected the heart of the book to tell us; we don't know what is coming, we can't stop it, so why waste our money trying? Why obsess? When what we will cover will be everything that cannot possibly happen, and it would be counter-productive to try to cover every single possible unlikely scenario. But it is really the precise opposite: he tells us how and why we should work and plan to neutralize disasters, though we do not know when or what they will come as. That the good work of century can be undone in a day.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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  • Peter
    Beulah, United Kingdom
    12/5/08
    Overall
    "A magazine article posing as a book"

    I had high hopes for this book. Unfortunately, it was way too long for the very simple message that the author tries to convey. The book is split into four sections - by the end of the first section it was a 5-star triumph, after the second section it had dropped to a passable but somewhat repetetive 4-star text, but by the end of the book it had collapsed to a teetering-on-3-star irritation. As a driving listener, by the time the books last paragraphs are being squeezed out, I was fighting the compulsion to drive into a hedge, just so the noise would stop.

    The reader also conveyed the impression that the author was intensely arrogant and self-satisfied, which put me off somewhat.

    18 of 18 people found this review helpful
  • Keith
    London, United Kingdom
    12/23/12
    Overall
    "Best left unread in Umberto Eco's library"

    The author recommends leaving many books unread in the library. This should probably be one of them. The style is arrogant, condescending with frequent personal attacks on those he disagrees with. His idea that extreme unpredictable events occur, are often of enormous significance, need to be considered and are routinely ignored is a point worth making and elaborating. The first part of the book explains this idea at a length that sometimes becomes tedious. He then goes on a tirade against use of statistics. But instead of explaining how stats are used badly he launches an attack on the tools themselves, particularly the Normal distribution, not its use but the tool itself as if it were evil incarnate. I thought that maybe he did understand something about the mathematics he was ranting against although he so often seemed to get it wrong but gradually changed my mind as his interpretations became more misleading. What underlies his apparent hatred for Carl Frederick Gauss is not clear but I gave up with any sympathy for his approach when he started attacking the Uncertainty Principle as not relevant because (he says) it is Gaussian. He litters the book with the names of famous people, many of them mathematicians, he appears to adore Benoit Mandelbrot and Henri Poincare but oddly enough not Rene Thom. I found the book quite objectionable not because I disagreed with it or because of its style but because it has so much disinformation; this is presumably intentional as the author tells us early on that information is nearly always bad for us. If there is an abridged version of the book, cut down to less than fifty pages it might be worth reading, otherwise give it a miss.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • lousouthend
    6/22/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "highly entertaining moderately informative"

    Nietzschean high tone sneer alternating nicely with carefully constructed argument. Sound if somewhat over worked presentation of the problem of induction. Fascinating extension from this to normative conclusions that are appealingly straightforward. Good to see some old favourites getting coverage but I dont think Mandelbrot, Popper and Poincarre are as hard done by as he seems to suggest. I'll be thinking about some his ideas for quite a while.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Emmi
    5/15/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "A challenging read, but insightful"

    This book has been interesting but at times a strike, couldn't have read it all

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Shak
    3/1/15
    Overall
    "Basics of life - should have been taught at school"

    As someone who is told I have a high IQ, I ask myself why I'm not out performing my peers by a huge margin - and I've come to realise that an IQ is nothing more than potential... One must be given the tools and be educated; this book does that! Certainly one I'll be listening to again

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Mr. Mike Nuttall
    Leeds UK
    9/4/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Only just started it but I'm not impressed so far."
    What did you like best about The Black Swan? What did you like least?

    I hate the narration. The sounds really arrogant. It makes Taleb sound like soomeone who is really really pleased with himself. Is he?

    At the start of the first chapter he gives an example of a black swan event... and then tells us it's fictional. What!? Did I hear that right? I might have to go back and check it, maybe I wasn't paying enough attention.


    Would you recommend The Black Swan to your friends? Why or why not?

    Not sure yet, probably not at the moment, I'll see if it grows on me.


    Who might you have cast as narrator instead of David Chandler?

    Anybody!


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Colin
    Kew, United Kingdom
    7/10/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "I'm so clever"

    This is an interesting read if you can get past his bragging. You've probably heard of it and it does a pretty good job of demonstrating (a) the fierce power of the unexpected to trip up the unwary and (b) how much cleverer the author is than anyone else. Not necessarily in that order.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Niall
    Longniddry, East Lothian, United Kingdom
    7/25/09
    Overall
    "Another Peach"

    I re-listen to this book once every month or so. The author prides himself on his original thinking. This pride comes over as smugness, but that aside this is a very interesting take on the world we live in.
    Thoroughly enjoy this and highly recommend it.

    5 of 10 people found this review helpful

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