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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

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4.0 (2314 )
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  •  
    Thomas Chapel Hill, NC, United States 04-13-11
    Thomas Chapel Hill, NC, United States 04-13-11 Member Since 2013
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    "what a shame"

    The idea is great, and parts of the book are fascinating and provoking; hwoever, this is unfortunately ruined by the constance deluge of self-congratulation, attempts at self-depracating humor which just show additional hubris, and just plain long sections which say virtually nothing. Its tiring hearing about the author's quips to "never teach from boring economic books written by nobel laureates", many of whom he disagrees with and of course have nothing of substance to say to counter his arguments, since he is so much brighter than any of them. Nothing like the summary, in which he says his response to black swans is to be worried about things which seem sure, while not worrying about high risk decisions, because you already know they are high risk. But here is the killer, the whole point of black swans is they are totally unpredictable. If they are predictable, they are no longer black swans.

    This for me was just painful to listen to. It's a shame, because the basic concept is fascinating and thought provoking and potentially alters the way you think about things. unfortunately there is about 2 hours of interesting material in here, and the rest is just nauseating.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    greg SCHILLER PARK, ILLINOIS, United States 04-08-11
    greg SCHILLER PARK, ILLINOIS, United States 04-08-11 Member Since 2010
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    "Big vocabluary,Taleb is full of it !!"

    If you want to listen to some big vocabulary , and find out that you can't predict anything and that there is no sense in planning something than listen to this book if not, save yourself some time and listen to “Outliers “ by Maxwell

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    03-25-11
    03-25-11 Member Since 2015
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    4
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    "Brilliant, but so utterly arrogant in delivery."

    I don't know where they found the narrator of the book, he must be a friend of Taleb, because the way he narrates it's as if he's the embodiment of Taleb himself only 50% more douchey. I kept imagining him on top of a horse dressed as a foppish dandy.

    I enjoyed the message and his thesis as I am an engineer and we use bell curves (i.e. Six Sigma) to show as if we can explain randomness in data and prove that we fixed a problem. While it is useful in explaining if something was improved, but there are so many other tricks that you can play that even if you did nothing, you could still show that you improved a process. I am guilty of using these little tricks like adjusting my standard deviation by moving the data set around, but what a crock the whole thing is. It just gives managers something to masturbate to.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Eduardo Santiago, Chile 03-25-11
    Eduardo Santiago, Chile 03-25-11 Member Since 2014
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    "Disappointed..."

    The topic has lots of promise, but Taleb's execution is amateurish. The failure to synthesize and join threads is his biggest failing. And most annoying is that it is an autobiography in disguise. There are way too many personal anecdotes that end up clouding the points he is making.

    At the end of the day you want an audiobook to be so compelling that you can't take your headphones off. I found that I had to force myself to get through it by erasing everything else off of my iPod; always hoping that Taleb would finally deliver a few minutes of memorable brillance that never came.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Marie WASHINGTON, DC, United States 03-20-11
    Marie WASHINGTON, DC, United States 03-20-11 Member Since 2010

    Professional librarian type, amateur historian.

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    "Likable but meh"

    I kept hearing the term 'black swans' on one of my favorite podcasts I figured I should give the book a try. It is informative and good, and I agreed with the author on certain points but it didn't fall under that 'can't stop listening' category of audiobooks, so thus less than 5 stars. The author's arrogant attitude was a negative .5 star and so rounding down this is a three star book for me. Listen then erase to save valuable space.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    K. Arkwell Richmond, Virginia USA 03-20-11
    K. Arkwell Richmond, Virginia USA 03-20-11 Member Since 2007
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    "Can't get past the first hour"

    The arrogance and self-righteousness of the author completely negates his message for me. Not to mention that it's a full 40 minutes in intro and preface before the first chapter starts! He tells you what he's going to tell you, what he's going to cover in the chapters ahead, how he's going to lay out his arguments, then he repeats it again. I'm guessing that's because he thinks everyone is too stupid to understand what he's going to say. I gave up after an hour. There are too many good books out there to listen to. I give him the benefit of the doubt and give it 2 stars because I haven't finished it. The part I have heard isn't even worth one star.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    robert 09-01-10
    robert 09-01-10
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    "Great for some, boring for others...."

    This book is about philosophy, deep thinking and self-reflection. It does not have trading tips or predictions about the economy. It is about a paradigm that isn't considered in every day life; consideration of black swan events. There are many analogies to finance and criticisms of economics and policy. Yes, it is very negative. Yes, he comes across as pompous and arrogant. And yes, after awhile you get his point. But I must admit that this book opened my mind to new concepts and points of view. I see events in the market place and in my current field much differently now. If you like to think about abstract, philosophical ideas, then this is a good book. If you do not enjoy the act of thinking, then do not read this book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    Mehturt 08-18-10
    Mehturt 08-18-10
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    "Don't quite understand the hype"

    Yes, the thesis is interesting, and in essence it's quite interesting. But he just goes on and on expostulating and expounding, repeating himself. It could all be said in about half the space (at most) and nothing would be missing. At the start I found it interesting. At the end I was just so tired of it I wanted him to finally stop.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Stanley Germantown, WI, United States 08-11-10
    Stanley Germantown, WI, United States 08-11-10 Member Since 2009
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    "Snarky"

    I agee with many of the comments and won't expand.

    While I enjoyed the book I am shocked that an editor would allow so much narcissism of any author to show through. It substantially detracted from the books content. A compounding error was made in the narration by not reducing the sarcasm quotient with softened less cyncial voice inflection.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer 03-23-10 Member Since 2009

    JCO

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    "Well done"

    As others have remarked, Taleb has an ego.

    A friend joked that he was "supposed to meet with Taleb who couldn't make it...he sent God in his place."

    Overall, a great message and an important argument to add to your view of the world.

    -----

    Side note: I do find it unseemly that the publisher of this audiobook (Recorded Books) found it necessary to pimp a book about global warming at the end.

    I don't mind a company promoting its wares in general, but for Recorded Books to do so for a book on such a controversial topic is unwelcome for the myriad readers who may not agree with the stance they support.

    2 of 4 people found this review helpful

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