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Fooled by Randomness by Nassim Nicholas Taleb


This book is actually statistics explained in layman’s language, and how it applies to our daily lives. It’s actually less about the mathematical parts of statistics, and much more about the hidden assumptions and surprising results that are counter-intuitive but built-in to statistics – what we perceive as success may be pure luck, or vice versa.

The author has been a trader in the investment industry for most of his life, and thus a most of the examples given are finance and trading related. The markets are particularly prone to randomness and the material therefore is all the more interesting.

The book does extend its results and principles to life in general. One of the most interesting points that is reiterated is Karl Popper’s observation that science should be taken with a grain of salt – simply because anything based on experimentation suffers from the black swan problem – no matter how many white swans you see, you cannot conclude that all swans are white. See one black swan, however, and you can conclude that not all swans are white. Positive results, as such, are extremely hard to prove.

Another principle that I enjoyed reading about is thinking of success probabilistically – while a given trader may make more money than a given dentist – in expectation, given all possible twists of the dentist’s career, the dentist is far more likely to enjoy reasonable success compared to the trader, who is far more affected by events that are random.

The writing flows very nicely and is very easy to understand – I highly recommend this book. It certainly gives a few fresh perspectives to life.

Rating: 4 / 5

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