Monday, December 31, 2007

Musings about "The Black Swan"

As I wade into what already seems like an excellent follow-up by Nassim Nicholas Taleb to his first book - "Fooled By Randomness", I stopped to read the advance praise on the back cover and while doing so came upon a great laugh. Those faithful readers of Taleb's books know that it cannot be said for certain that the person responsible for collecting the advance praise quotes did not read the book, but the choice to include the quote from Tom Peters may stand as evidence toward this conclusion.

Tom is quoted "There's more about the ways of the real world between the covers of The Black Swan than in the contents of a dozen libraries."

I find the inclusion of this quote funny given the nature of Taleb's book. As he himself might agree - it is also certainly possible the person responsible for this inclusion did read the book, but risked the possible contradiction to acheive greater book sales, or it was done for reader humor or any other possibilitiy in the universe of possibilities.

So what is so funny? For Tom to assert there is more about the real world in this book than in the contents of a dozen libraries goes against the whole book's premise. What if one or more of the dozen libraries contained The Black Swan? This statement becomes false in a library consisting of this book and a Webster's Dictionary. Though it is possible that Tom is correct, if this book acheives a million copies in sales, then there will be a million cases where he is incorrect.

Anyway, enough about this topic. If you know of Taleb, have read his work this post hopefully gave you a bit of a chuckle. If you don't know of Taleb, I suggest you read both Fooled By Randomness and this wonderful follow-on work.

Thanks Taleb - keep up the good work, if I don't feel smarter, I feel more satisfied.