Table of Contents
The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets (Incerto)
Fooled by Randomness is a standalone 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 The Black Swan, Antifragile, Skin in the Game, and The Bed of Procrustes.
Fooled by Randomness is the word-of-mouth sensation that will change the way you think about business and the world. Nassim Nicholas Taleb–veteran trader, renowned risk expert, polymathic scholar, erudite raconteur, and New York Times bestselling author of The Black Swan–has written a modern classic that turns on its head what we believe about luck and skill.
This book is about luck–or more precisely, about how we perceive and deal with luck in life and business. Set against the backdrop of the most conspicuous forum in which luck is mistaken for skill–the world of trading–Fooled by Randomness provides captivating insight into one of the least understood factors in all our lives. Writing in an entertaining narrative style, the author tackles major intellectual issues related to the underestimation of the influence of happenstance on our lives.
The book is populated with an array of characters, some of whom have grasped, in their own way, the significance of chance: the baseball legend Yogi Berra; the philosopher of knowledge Karl Popper; the ancient world’s wisest man, Solon; the modern financier George Soros; and the Greek voyager Odysseus. We also meet the fictional Nero, who seems to understand the role of randomness in his professional life but falls victim to his own superstitious foolishness.
However, the most recognizable character of all remains unnamed–the lucky fool who happens to be in the right place at the right time–he embodies the “survival of the least fit.” Such individuals attract devoted followers who believe in their guru’s insights and methods. But no one can replicate what is obtained by chance.
Are we capable of distinguishing the fortunate charlatan from the genuine visionary? Must we always try to uncover nonexistent messages in random events? It may be impossible to guard ourselves against the vagaries of the goddess Fortuna, but after reading Fooled by Randomness we can be a little better prepared.
Named by Fortune One of the Smartest Books of All Time
A Financial Times Best Business Book of the Year
Book Review by Alex Bush
Still the Best of Taleb
Fooled by Randomness revolutionized how I view the world. In multiple ways. It’s hard to overstate how rarely a book changes your ideas about how the world works once, let alone multiple times, and that Taleb has managed to weave a fantastically engaging and entertaining book out of what could very easily be a dry and technical topic is just icing in the cake.
I’ve read all four of Taleb’s books and Fooled By Randomness still stands out as my favorite. Although Black Swan is still the most popular, and most controversial, Fooled in many ways is the most practical, as it’s the most general and therefore most widely applicable.
Everyone should deeply understand the survivorship and hindsight biases, as well as the difference between conditional and unconditional probability.
That being said, it’s often hard to determine whether the heart of the book is the ideas (which to someone such as myself who has only a Stats 101 background in probability are almost always revelation-inducing) or the author.
I can’t stress how much I learned from this book that has nothing to do with probability or statistics, just random asides from an erudite and meandering mind. Regardless of your background (or even your interest in probability) you will probable learn some fascinating and/or useful tidbit from Fooled, and probably a whole lot more.
“[Taleb is] Wall Street’s principal dissident. . . . [Fooled By Randomness] is to conventional Wall Street wisdom approximately what Martin Luther’s ninety-nine theses were to the Catholic Church.”
–Malcolm Gladwell, The New Yorker
“Fascinating . . . Taleb will grab you.”
–Peter L. Bernstein, author of Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk
“Recalls the best of scientist/essayists like Richard Dawkins . . . and Stephen Jay Gould.”
–Michael Schrage, author of Serious Play
“We need a book like this . . . fun to read, refreshingly independent-minded.”
–Robert J. Shiller, author of Irrational Exuberance
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About the Author
Nassim Nicholas Taleb has devoted his life to problems of uncertainty, probability, and knowledge. He spent nearly two decades as a businessman and quantitative trader before becoming a full-time philosophical essayist and academic researcher in 2006.
Although he spends most of his time in the intense seclusion of his study, or as a flâneur meditating in cafés, he is currently Distinguished Professor of Risk Engineering at New York University’s Polytechnic Institute. His main subject matter is “decision making under opacity”—that is, a map and a protocol on how we should live in a world we don’t understand.
Taleb’s books have been published in thirty-three languages.