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The Black Swan: Second Edition: The Impact of the Highly Improbable


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About the Author

Nassim Nicholas Taleb has devoted his life to problems of uncertainty, probability, and knowledge. He spent nearly two decades as a businessman and quantitative trader before becoming a full-time philosophical essayist and academic researcher in 2006. Although he spends most of his time in the intense seclusion of his study, or as a flaneur meditating in cafes, 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.

Taleb's books have been published in forty-one languages.


Taleb is concerned with black swans, i.e., unpredictable and improbable events that have great impact. Among the examples of these he cites are the rapid spread of the Internet and the 9/11 attacks. People endeavor to explain black swans after they occur, but they cannot do so in advance. Despite the crucial effects of these events, economists and other supposed experts in prediction fail to allow for them; indeed, their theories often deny their possibility. Because of this failure, Taleb maintains that much business forecasting is useless. To him, only a few economists, e.g., Friedrich Hayek, grasp the vital importance of uncertainty and escape condemnation. Taleb extends his indictment of conventional approaches to risk, contending that the bell curve, a key tool of many standard theories, often fails to fit the actual world. He further posits that people tend not to cope with a black swan properly, tailoring their response to specific details of the incident rather than generalizing their response. Taleb's excellent book, which continues and extends his earlier Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets, effectively exposes many common illusions. Recommended for all collections.--David Gordon, Bowling Green State Univ., OH Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

Praise for Nassim Nicholas Taleb

"The most prophetic voice of all."-GQ

Praise for The Black Swan

"[A book] that altered modern thinking."-The Times (London)

"A masterpiece."-Chris Anderson, editor in chief of Wired, author of The Long Tail

"Idiosyncratically brilliant."-Niall Ferguson, Los Angeles Times

"The Black Swan changed my view of how the world works."-Daniel Kahneman, Nobel laureate

"[Taleb writes] in a style that owes as much to Stephen Colbert as it does to Michel de Montaigne. . . . We eagerly romp with him through the follies of confirmation bias [and] narrative fallacy."-The Wall Street Journal

"Hugely enjoyable-compelling . . . easy to dip into."-Financial Times

"Engaging . . . The Black Swan has appealing cheek and admirable ambition."-The New York Times Book Review

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