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The Black Swan, Second Edition: The Impact of the Highly Improbable: With a new section: "On Robustness and Fragility"

Incerto, Book 2
Written by: Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Narrated by: Joe Ochman
Length: 15 hrs and 48 mins
Categories: Business & Money, Commerce
4.5 out of 5 stars (65 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The Black Swan is a stand-alone book in Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s landmark Incerto series, an investigation of opacity, luck, uncertainty, probability, human error, risk, and decision-making in a world we don’t understand. The other books in the series are Fooled by Randomness, Antifragile, Skin in the Game, and The Bed of Procrustes.

A black swan is a highly improbable event with three principal characteristics: It is unpredictable; it carries a massive impact; and, after the fact, we concoct an explanation that makes it appear less random, and more predictable, than it was. The astonishing success of Google was a black swan; so was 9/11. For Nassim Nicholas Taleb, black swans underlie almost everything about our world, from the rise of religions to events in our own personal lives.

Why do we not acknowledge the phenomenon of black swans until after they occur? Part of the answer, according to Taleb, is that humans are hardwired to learn specifics when they should be focused on generalities. We concentrate on things we already know and time and time again fail to take into consideration what we don’t know. We are, therefore, unable to truly estimate opportunities, too vulnerable to the impulse to simplify, narrate, and categorize, and not open enough to rewarding those who can imagine the “impossible”.

For years, Taleb has studied how we fool ourselves into thinking we know more than we actually do. We restrict our thinking to the irrelevant and inconsequential, while large events continue to surprise us and shape our world. In this revelatory book, Taleb explains everything we know about what we don’t know, and this second edition features a new philosophical and empirical essay, “On Robustness and Fragility”, which offers tools to navigate and exploit a Black Swan world.

Elegant, startling, and universal in its applications, The Black Swan will change the way you look at the world. Taleb is a vastly entertaining writer, with wit, irreverence, and unusual stories to tell. He has a polymathic command of subjects ranging from cognitive science to business to probability theory. The Black Swan is a landmark book - itself a black swan.

Includes a bonus pdf of tables and figures.

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)

“Hugely enjoyable - compelling...easy to dip into.” (Financial Times)

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

©2010 Nassim Nicholas Taleb (P)2018 Random House Audio

What the critics say

“Engaging.... The Black Swan has appealing cheek and admirable ambition.” (The New York Times Book Review)

“[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

The Black Swan changed my view of how the world works.” (Daniel Kahneman, Nobel Laureate)

  “Idiosyncratically brilliant.” (Niall Ferguson, Los Angeles Times

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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    4 out of 5 stars

Worthy of a reread

this was an excellent book, and a much-needed corrective 2 our overconfidence in our own knowledge. the exposition was exceptionally clear and his polemical Style was extremely entertaining.

parts of tellabs social critique we're weaker or misguided, but his Central thesis was highly persuasive. I especially appreciated the essay and Technical discussion at the end of the book. this essay was added to the second edition and was not present in the original text.

this book stands out as one of the few texts worthy of a reread. this is not because the ideas presented were especially difficult, but rather because the illusion of knowledge is particularly difficult to dispel.

3 people found this helpful

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Prepare to be destroyed (and reborn)

At first it might seem walkey-talkey, but NNT walks his talk with rigorous math too.

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Very disappointing

I heard great things about this book and I love business books so I was looking forward to it. It was billed as a new outlook that explained why the financial markets would be different after 2008 than before. It turns out that it is basically just a guy that made a lucky call on the markets falling by using options. He was able to market himself and hype the story but beyond that there was nothing of value in the book. It will not teach you anything about the financial markets or how you should think about investing. It just is a self-appreciating account of a guy who made a lucky guess.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 2019-08-08

Interesting, but over the top

The book has many great points and is thought provoking in many ways. However, is difficult to get past Taleb's abrasive style of writing. It's very clear he is trying to be intentionally agitating by being completely dismissive of the entire disciplines like social science, economics, and even sometimes biology. I generally prefer authors who are careful and thoughtful with their criticism, so this book annoyed me at times. Still, it has many good points, mainly that bell curves have important limitations in predicting important outliers (although he repeats this point ad nauseam). I have trouble believing, as he asserts, that many high level scientists and speculators don't know about power law distributions or think their methods are clairvoyant. Worth the read if you can get over a lot of straw manning of fields. Taleb is capable of making unique and powerful points.

10 people found this helpful

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  • Jared M. Short
  • 2019-04-10

so cool!

I'm not a technical consumer but it was a fascinating read. I think I understood 50%.

8 people found this helpful

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  • Jenna Weisz
  • 2019-04-30

I regret listening to this audio.

so listening to this audio was quite a struggle for me. Not necessary because of the performance of The Voice narrator. Honestly I think he did a pretty good job dealing with the material he had. I found the author himself to be pompous and full of himself. Now not saying that some of the things that he was getting at wasn't useful. But this could have been summed up in a longer essay than a novel. I found the writing all over the place and made to be longer than necessary. I also felt that some of his examples where Cherry Picked at most. He seemed to attack everybody basically saying that they were all wrong and he was the only person right. So if you find yourself interested in some of the topic I would go ahead and get the book. Otherwise I would say stay away from this as much as possible. Also sorry for the novel I really just hated this book so much.

13 people found this helpful

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  • Brandon K. Kirkham
  • 2019-03-07

Anti-Statistics

The book poses a real challenge to the current paradigm of risk assessment and consequence prediction. The main idea is that most progress and catastrophes occur in unexpected leaps rather than small incremental changes. I’m still trying to figure out how this is useful to me beyond the awareness of this principle. I’ll get there...

11 people found this helpful

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  • Jussi Kari
  • 2019-11-23

For some reason, this book was applauded

I was told this is an insightful book.

Turns out this book contains one thought: that gaussian probabilities do not contain everything and that you should be prepared for what they don’t tell you.

Other than that, this book only seems to contain Taleb telling how Nobel winners are ”fraudsters” and ”phonies” and only him and his close friends ”get it”.

When I was 10, my dad told me it’s okay to be proud of what you have - but that you should never be a braggard. Taleb clearly didn’t get the memo. While he probably is very intelligent, he also seems like an annoying, insufferable prick.

Would have otherwise given just one star but Taleb does raise some good points so two stars it is.

The performance is solid, though.

5 people found this helpful

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  • S. Hagmüller
  • 2019-05-06

Messy and filled with redundancy

Never knew one could convey simple ideas in such a convoluted manner. 5 subtitles per chapter. Weird imaginary characters with stories going nowhere. No clear thread to follow throughout the book. Too bad.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Claire St. Hilaire
  • 2019-11-07

Unique, relevant, and perspective altering

This book is a must read for anyone who enjoys philosophy, is seeking greater self awareness, or is interested in understanding how to think about risk. Taleb has an incredible mind, a sharp wit, and a grounded approach to life. It is so refreshing to read a book rooted in complex thought and observation, that avoids the quagmire of insular academic thought.

The performance of Joe Ochman is well suited to the tone of the book. Between the writing style and the reading it really feels like you are on a long slow walk with Taleb as he passionately explains his life’s work to you.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Riley Ostlund
  • 2019-10-25

Very Interesting

Taleb introduces a completely new way of thinking and dealing with our not knowing and the unpredictability of the world. Great book.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Basem Aggad
  • 2019-06-21

it'll change you..

though the book gets into boggling tangents at times, it'll definitely have you question the eventuality of things that occur to you and the world around you.. the narrator's cynicism dramatise the writers intent beautifully.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Russell
  • 2019-05-02

Once a Cult Classic, Now Rising Paradigm

At this point NNT need no introduction.

Out of all his books, this may be the most essential to understanding a worldview that embraces globalization, but cautions against both globalism and reactionary nationalism. Though you will have to connect some dots to arrive at this conclusion.

Listen closely to characterizations of Extremistan and Mediocristan, the 'Triplet of Historical Opacity' and the fractal beauty of what has become known as "the long tail" of probability.

NNT is not only a successful investor, but a powerful renaissance mind falling in a long tradition of Mediterranean thinkers extending into the ancient world.

You won't regret this one!

2 people found this helpful