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Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
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Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life Kindle Edition
|Length: 259 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
|Page Flip: Enabled||
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Some 1,150 days of seclusion in the years following The Black Swan (2007) afforded time not only to devour the 550 or so books listed in the bibliography to the much lengthier Antifragile (2012) but also to develop what he himself previously detested - the random use of borrowed wisdom (though it was fascinating to read why use of the wheel initially disappeared from the Levant after the Arab invasion) - and to wield his keyboard repeatedly and unkindly to hammer perceived nails in the shape of some fine fellow professionals with whom he now finds himself increasingly and violently disagreeing.
In Skin in the Game we see these aberrations taken even further with surprisingly gratuitous and sarcastic references ("Hillary Monsanto-Malmaison, sometimes known as Hillary Clinton" and Joseph Stiglitz as “Intellectual Yet Idiot") along with random Daily Mail-type stories about how increased halal lamb imports from New Zealand and the numbers of automatic shifting vehicles are instances of minority dictatorship and how Italians regard McDonalds in Milan Centrale as refuge from a risky meal. Mr Taleb has of course written that it’s only when you don’t care about your reputation that you tend to have a good one, but it seems to me that after accumulating a steady stream of positive returns he has given us his own unfortunate, highly unexpected event.
UPDATE: I did carry on to the end of the book for old times' sake. I left it feeling that Taleb is like a friend who has some dodgy politics, likes to make a lot 0f "controversial" remarks, occasionally makes some insightful points, can be amusing and can also be a crashing bore. In other words, you're pleased to see your old friend but rather relieved when he finally leaves and glad to have a bit of time away from each other before meeting up again.
In many ways this is a deeply moral book with important messages for how we live. This realization becomes suddenly clear in the rather poetic epilogue, which I loved. Collective action (the game) generates many meaningful benefits, but, to be symmetrical and ethical, it always requires contribution of players, and contribution implies risk (the skin). Taleb has no time for people in authority who don't get this and consequently promote dangerous ideas which lead to ignorant policy or business decisions. For them he reserves his full scorn (for example, in his view, Monsanto and its dangerous development of GM crops). Through ignorance, they risk catastrophically ruining the systems we depend on for everyone for ever.
On the downside, Taleb's style of relentlessly 'speaking truth to power' can feel a bit uncomfortable and negative. However we are compensated by his practical, ethical and logical reasoning - made more clear in an appendix devoted to the maths that underpins the conclusions, and further leavened with fascinating personal stories.
By the way, like many books it's one worth starting at the back with the glossary, where you will be able to learn to speak 'Taleb'.