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Customer Review

on 7 January 2010
I found this book even more irritating than the narcissistic outpourings of Fooled By Randomness, the insufferable Taleb's previous ramble on chance and probability. After stripping out all the random pointless forays into the undergrowth by the road and pseudo-intellectual musings and nauseating self-praise (disguised with unctuous false humility) - i.e. most of the book, we discover that the author has ONLY ONE IDEA, and he's already told us of its discovery (by him) IN HIS PREVIOUS BOOK!

Taleb's is a counsel of despair. If rare events, difficult by definition to predict, have major consequences, then we might as well throw in the towel, not bother forecasting and go to the beach. In any case, I can assure everybody (having spent thirty years trying to forecast stock prices) that forecasting is difficult enough even assuming Gaussian or log-normal distributions without having to invoke Black Swans or any other feathered creatures.

By the way, am I the only one who thinks that Black Swans are simply a metaphor for the well-known (in intelligence circles) problem of the impossibility of proving a negative? Why doesn't Taleb the epistemologist not baldly say this? Because it wouldn't provide enough material for a book - of more rambling? Read the far more more modest and capable Mandelbrot's The Misbehaviour of Markets for a good read by one of the world's most accomplished mathematicians about probability and forecasting. The chapter on the Nile floods is a fascinating read.
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