Fooled By Randomness – Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Saturday, May 12, 2007

The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets

This was one of the best “business” books I’ve read in a long time with some real pearls of wisdom which I simply must record in order that I remember them.  Check this out –

LADY LUCK (pg. 3-4)
“The observation of the numerous misfortunes that attend all conditions forbids us to grow insolent upon our present enjoyments, or to admire a man’s happiness that may yet, in course of time, suffer change.  For the uncertain future has yet to come, with all variety of future; and him only to whom the divinity has guaranteed continued happiness until the end we may call happy.” (Solon to Croesus when asked whether Croesus was not the happiest man of all given his enormous wealth).  Interpretation : That which comes with the help of luck could be taken away by luck, and that which comes with little help from luck is more resistant from randomness.

One cannot judge a performance in any given field (war, politics, medicine, investments) by the results but by the costs of the alternatives (i.e. if history played out in a different way)…..While all histories are not observable, the wise and thoughtful person should make a guess as to their attributes before “placing bets”…..Certainty is something that is likely to take place across the highest number of different alternative histories…..Reality is far more vicious than Russian roulette.  First, it delivers the fatal bullet rather infrequently, like a revolver that would have hundreds, even thousands, of chambers instead of 6.  After a few dozen tries, one forgets about the existence of a bullet, under a numbing false sense of security.  The point is dubbed in this book the black swan problem…..It is difficult to go about life wearing probabilistic glasses, as one starts seeing fools of randomness all around, in a variety of situations – obdurate in their perceptional illusion. 

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