The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Nassim Nicholas Taleb is considered one of the most influential people in the past fifty years. His works have totally disrupted how we view history, the future, and everyday life. Daniel Kahneman even stated that Taleb’s works have changed how the world works.


A few years back I read Taleb’s Fooled by Randomness. Though I understood the core message, I was frequently confused. I had a difficult time following his ideas or arguments. I am smart enough to know that Taleb is a well-respected, intelligent, and somewhat contentious figure which means I am probably just a few brain cells short.

After reading The Black Swan, I feel no different. I think it all boils down to Taleb’s style of writing. He fills a long book with many little sections which make the work feel clunky. Additionally, I feel like his attempts at humor fall flat. This is most likely a cultural difference, or I need to expand my humor. Probably the latter.

The message of the book is simple: large, rare, unpredictable events have a larger impact than we admit. We all spend our lives trying to make sense of everything. We look through history attempting to understand why Rome was destroyed, why the Allies won the war, or why the stock market crashed, but in the end, we do not know. We downplay world-changing blips as simple anomalies that only happen every hundred years. However, these blips have a bigger impact than anything that came before it.

This is obviously an impactful book, I just didn’t understand it.