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Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets [Paperback]

Nassim Nicholas Taleb
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (87 customer reviews)
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Book Description

3 May 2007

From the author of international bestseller The Black Swan, Nassim Nicholas Taleb's Fooled by Randomness is the bestselling account of the hidden role of chance in life and the markets.

Everyone wants to succeed in life. But what causes some of us to be more successful than others? Is it really down to skill and strategy - or something altogether more unpredictable?

This book is the word-of-mouth sensation that will change the way you think about business and the world. It is all about luck: more precisely, how we perceive luck in our personal and professional experiences. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the markets - we hear an entrepreneur has 'vision' or a trader is 'talented', but all too often their performance is down to chance rather than skill. It is only because we fail to understand probability that we continue to believe events are non-random, finding reasons where none exist.

A Financial Times book of the year, this irreverent bestseller has shattered the illusions of people around the world by teaching them how to recognize randomness.

Now it can do the same for you.

'One of the smartest books of all time'
   Fortune

'An iconoclastic tour de force ... nothing escapes his Exocets'
   Evening Standard

'Brilliant'
   John Kay

'Excellent and thought-provoking ... an entertaining book'
   Financial Times

'Wall Street's principal dissident'
   Malcolm Gladwell

Nassim Nicholas Taleb (b.1960) has devoted his life to immersing himself in probelmce s of luck, uncertainty , probability and knowledge. His books The Black Swan and Fooled by Randomness have been published in thirty-one languages and Fooled by Randomness was selected by Fortune magazine as one of 'The Smartest Books of All Time'.


Frequently Bought Together

Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets + The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable + Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder
Price For All Three: 20.27

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Product details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; Re-issue edition (3 May 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141031484
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141031484
  • Product Dimensions: 2.1 x 12.9 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (87 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 12,257 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Nassim Nicholas Taleb has devoted his life to problems of uncertainty, probability, and knowledge. He spent two decades as a trader before becoming a philosophical essayist and academic researcher. Although he now spends most of his time either working in intense seclusion in his study, or as a flâneur meditating in cafés across the planet, he is currently Distinguished Professor of Risk Engineering at New York University's Polytechnic Institute. His main subject matter is "decision making under opacity", that is, a map and a protocol on how we should live in a world we don't understand.

His works are grouped under the general title Incerto (latin for uncertainty), composed of a trilogy accessible in any order (Antifragile, The Black Swan, and Fooled by Randomness) plus two addenda: a book of philosophical aphorisms (The Bed of Procrustes) and a freely available Technical Companion. Taleb's books have been published in thirty-three languages.

Taleb believes that prizes, honorary degrees, awards, and ceremonialism debase knowledge by turning it into a spectator sport.

""Imagine someone with the erudition of Pico de la Mirandola, the skepticism of Montaigne, solid mathematical training, a restless globetrotter, polyglot, enjoyer of fine wines, specialist of financial derivatives, irrepressible reader, and irascible to the point of readily slapping a disciple." La Tribune (Paris)

A giant of Mediterranean thought ... Now the hottest thinker in the world", London Times
"The most prophetic voice of all" GQ

Product Description

Review

'An iconoclastic tour de force ... nothing escapes his Exocets' -- Evening Standard

'Brilliant'
-- John Kay

'Excellent and thought-provoking ... an entertaining book' -- Financial Times

'One of the smartest books of all time' -- Fortune

'Wall Street's principal dissident' -- Malcolm Gladwell

About the Author

Nassim Nicholas Taleb spends most of his time as a flâneur, meditating in cafés across the planet. A former trader, he is currently Distinguished Professor of Risk Engineering at New York University. His

books Fooled by Randomness and The Black Swan have been published in thirty-one languages.


Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
Croesus, King of Lydia, was considered the richest man of his time. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
118 of 124 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An antidote to clueless gurus 4 Sep 2007
Format:Paperback
I was ambivalent about this book when I picked it up, but was quickly gripped and had to read to the end.

This book is about the Illusion of Control on a massive scale: a refusal to acknowledge blind luck's contribution to our success. Taleb is a trader as well as a scholar, and mixes his logical points with many tales about the "Masters of the Universe": traders who, with a run of successful investment, become rich, promoted and profiled in Fortune magazine. Given the huge numbers of people who become traders, the number of these high-flyers is pretty much what you would expect by chance. The logical conclusion is that there is no evidence that any of these traders have any real skill, or that any of the investment advice given by gurus and journalists has any value. This contrasts with other walks of life where skill and practice are necessary: you couldn't become a concert pianist by blind luck, for example.

Yet the finance industry refuses to acknowledge this. Noise (the natural volatility of the market) is mistaken for signal (understandable and predictable responses to events), and hence pure luck is mistaken for skill. When the hot-shot trader loses all his money, and is escorted from the building by security, it comes as a total surprise to him.

Embarrassingly for his targets, Taleb is not advancing some daring new theory. He just uses probability theory, basic statistics and a knowledge of the psychological research on biases: the toolbox of an informed critical thinker.
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60 of 63 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
If you have ever listened to economists, analysts, or other supposedly intelligent commentators and wondered is it just you or are they really talking complete rubbish, then this book is for you. Taleb has produced a witty, informed, and entertaining book that debunks much of what passes for analysis and success in financial markets.
Taleb has a clear admiration for Physics and adopts a physics approach. He dives right into the heart of the problem, finds the essential truth - that markets are random, the path we observe is only one of many, and that we cannot make proper assessments on trading strategies until a sufficient time-period has elapsed to give a significant sample which includes those rare but headline-making events that occur from time-to-time. He picks out several consequences of this phenomenon. The main one is Survivorship Bias (that those experiencing good fortune at picking the right investments will be elevated to guru status, until one of those rare but extreme events removes them from their pedestals). There are many other useful insights here; how the shorter the time-scale we use to study performance the more noise we see; how journalists comment on the one random outcome we observe and interpret it as significant news; how pseudo-science has spread to all sorts of unsuitable areas; and how groups of traders form collective opinions which defy rational analysis (the so-called "fire-station" effect); how lucky traders become all puffed-up with their own success, and the link to Seretonin levles and evolutionary benefits of being able to identify winners in competitions. This entertaining section gives compelling reasons for sharing Taleb's scepticism about much of the modern financial world.
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40 of 43 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Humour and wisdom 26 Aug 2007
By William Cohen VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I was hesitant about buying this book because I thought it might be a technical book about trading. It isn't. It reminded me of Fred Schwed's, Where are all the customers' yachts? - a humorous look at human folly in the media and the world of investments. There's a little bit of Northcote Parkinson, P J O'Rourke and maybe a little of Montaigne in there, too.

I liked the fact that Taleb recommends not reading newspapers or watching TV news, I like his anti-corporate dandyism, too. He makes a sweeping statement about how self-help books don't work, which I didn't agree with, particularly because I think this book is a rather smart and elegant self-help book written by a very funny guy.

I work as a speechwriter and this book is crammed full of colour that can be recycled for that kind of exercise. If you don't use it for that it will liven up your dinner-party conversation.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Very mixed views 26 May 2009
By Mr X
Format:Paperback
This book is a book of contrasts. I find myself agreeing with many of the views both positive and negative of the other reviewers of this book.

On the plus side, the book's main argument is very interesting and is fairly compelling. The essential idea is that the role of randomness in events, especially in financial endeavours is largely random and has very little if anything to do with skill. The effect of this idea is far reaching, and affects many areas not the least of which is executive pay; if the fortune of companies is due in large part to luck (rather than the CEO's skills) then how can their pay levels be justified. Likewise with stockbrokers etc.

On the minus side the writing style is very difficult. I don't mean the vocabularly and grammar but rather the strcuture of the book. Often at the end of a chapter the reader is left struggling to remember how (apart from in a very indirect sense) a chapter relates to the central argument and why it has been placed at that point in the book. The whole book is largely unstructured and hard to remember in any detail reading more like a series of unconnected anecdotes.

This is a great pity as the author is clearly onto something here and were it not for the above problem I would add it as a lifechanging book. Maybe Mr Taleb will write us a new, shorter, conciser and consequently much more persuasive book!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent
Excellent read and well reseach text. Good work by the author, and a must read for every adult in love
Published 2 months ago by kindle
5.0 out of 5 stars Very profound and interesting, in an easy-to-read format
Nassim Taleb has become a very well known writer, and I think he truly deserves that spot. By reading any of his works you can figure it out quickly that he's a very bright person,... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Leonardo
4.0 out of 5 stars An alternative perspective on risk management.
A good read. Taleb at his best (when he still had enough to say without the need to fake it).
Published 3 months ago by Anthony Brooke
5.0 out of 5 stars Do you believe in the Matrix?
Well, in case you do, I would invite you to read this book and see for yourself how deep the rabbit hole goes. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Mike
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting point of view, expressed in an entertaining way.
I really enjoyed this book. First of all I liked his point of view, which he puts forward in a clear and forthright way with dramatic illustrations that I accepted were based on... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Hector
5.0 out of 5 stars *A flirt with naked reason
Original reading of the 20th Century philosophy and politics in the light of applied statistics, wtihout any respect of authorities.
Published 4 months ago by steen bengtsson
5.0 out of 5 stars Great introduction to randomness and probabilities
Great introduction to randomness and probabilities. Book gives an overview of many fascinating fields, including prospect theory. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Babylon
3.0 out of 5 stars nice summer reading
Did read it during summer trip in the Alps. No major surprises in the book, no 'big message', a bit repetitive now and then. Read more
Published 6 months ago by joachimDS
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant
One of the best books for decision making ever written. Neat, comprehensive and up to the point. A strong buy
Published 8 months ago by adonis
1.0 out of 5 stars Not good
I have not read this book completely (nor do I intend to completely read it). I ordered and got this book with lot of expectations. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Shepherd
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