Fooled by Randomness

Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Fooled by Randomness



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Luck and chance are often mistaken for skill and determinism. How many times have we seen someone who we know to be incapable enjoy a serious stroke of luck by being in the right place at the right time? Fooled by Randomness provides a whole series of examples on the impact of chance on the financial markets and on life itself. With his signature lighthearted tone and using a mixture of statistics, psychology and philosophical reflections, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, expert in financial mathematics and probability theory, explains how luck and chance play a very important role in many aspects of life…much more than any of us may realise.

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Analysis and key concepts


We often tend to confuse luck and chance with skill and determinism


Don’t ever settle on just one theory: things change continuously and events prove that we make mistakes


Life is unfair, and it is not linear: the most talented players are not always the ones who win


The way we think depends on context, and is based on simple heuristics


Emotions can help us make decisions, but they can also overwhelm our ability to think rationally


In retrospect, we always find patterns, causes and explanations for past events, but they are mostly useless in helping us predict the future


The impact of rare events is very difficult to predict


We should have fun with harmless randomness and be more stoic in the face of negative randomness


Both in the media and in the stock market, listening to the rumour mill isn’t worth it




Take-home message

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Many useful tips to:

  • Get to know the dynamics of human nature via the various ways in which we react to uncertainty.
  • Understand that we are all at the mercy of fate, in every aspect of our lives.
  • Become aware of our human weaknesses and the fact that our choices are almost always driven by emotion.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb is a Lebanese-American philosopher, mathematical statistician and essayist. He is also a professor of the Science of uncertainty, former option trader, risk analyst and aphorist whose work concerns problems of randomness, probability and uncertainty. He is a professor of Risk Engineering at the New York University Tandon School of Engineering and at Oxford University, and is currently listed as a scientific adviser at Universa Investments.

Publishing house:

Random House