Learn the key ideas of the book by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

The Black Swan

How our lives are governed by improbable events

The Black Swan focuses on the extreme impact of rare and unpredictable outlier events (called Black Swans) and the human tendency to find simplistic explanations for these events, retrospectively. Nassim Nicholas Taleb explains what events can be considered “Black Swans” and how to build ‘robustness’ so as to be able to deal with them using certain strategies, revealing the positive side of such events and how they can help us.

The Black Swan
Read in 13 min.
Listen in 16 min.

Many useful tips to:

  • Understand the role that fate plays in our lives.
  • Help develop a rational, philosophical and relaxed approach to predictions about the future.
  • Offer further information for anyone who studies uncertainty or unexpected events, even in the technological arena.

The author of the book:

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.

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What is a Black Swan?

Before they discovered Australia, our ancestors were convinced that all swans were white. Then they discovered the New World, and the existence of black swans. A single discovery can disprove a general assertion based on millennia of observation. The “Black Swan” is an event that has three characteristics:

  • It is an isolated event which does not fall into the field of normal expectations.
  • It has an enormous impact.
  • Despite its unpredictability and the fact that it is an isolated event, human nature pushes us to look back into the past to justify its appearance to be able to explain it, and therefore make it predictable.

That is, we tend to look at things in retrospect when making predictions, rather than take a prospective view.

Also a highly probable event that does not end up happening, in spite of all predictions, is a Black Swan. Indeed, the occurrence of an extremely unlikely event is the equivalent to the non-occurrence of an extremely likely event.

The book examines our blindness to fate, to great deviations, and to the bigger picture of events.

What is surprising is not the relevance of the errors of forecasting, as much as our complete ignorance to the fact that we are making these predictions. And the paradox is, that experts and specialists are usually the worst at predicting Black Swans. Something that has always worked in the past will stop working unexpectedly, and what we have learned from the past can become, in the best case, irrelevant and wrong, and in the worst case, dangerously misleading.

  

The key ideas of "The Black Swan"

01.
What is a Black Swan?
02.
The problem of the Black Swan
03.
Our difficulties when it comes to forecasting
04.
Useful strategies
05.
Quotes
06.
Take-home message
 
 
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