Taleb’s “Black Swan”

I’ve just finished reading Taleb’s Black Swan. It’s very easy and engaging as it’s written in a personal style and directed towards a general audience.

The ideas in it are quite interesting – for me, the most interesting idea was about the limits to knowledge. E.g. how can one use induction to go from the particular to the general in non-narrowly-defined circumstances (e.g. not in mathematics)? There is brief discussion about this in the context of patterns of numbers or dots on a page, with the old exercise of not assuming a linear trend is the method behind the observed data.

This reminds me of multiple choice “IQ” and general ability tests in which there are often questions specifying three or four geometric or numerical patterns and asking for the next shape / number in the pattern. Of course, there are usually non-unique answers to these questions they way they are usually presented, and this is a simple example of the difficulty of using induction even in relatively well-defined circumstances.

The idea of the black swan is interesting and appears to be consistent with reality. It is interesting to think about the use of this idea in the world of public policy. Perhaps it’s more personally interesting to think about it in the context of personal life.

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