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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Black Swan

Taleb is praised by a lot of people in the business community as the new prophet of our age. I think it's a bit of an exaggeration. The basis of this best-selling book is, to put simply, "shit happens." I agree. It is true. Shit happens all the time and no one seems it coming.

What interests me is the anger and frustration that comes through in the very casual style of his writing. It can be viewed as an attack on the pervasive and very American attitude of being in control of events (perhaps more pervasive in the stock-trading and economic circles). Of course shit happens, people with some humility and history of suffering already know that. The invisible target of his rage, who go around pretending to be able to predict the course of history, are theorists and the privileged who have been sheltered from "the real world." For me, a Chinese person who barely missed the Cultural Revolution, his exclamations about random disasters provides no revelation but rather a resonance.

On the other hand I am skeptical about his claim that one can hedge the unknown and the random and the unpredictable to make more money. He says the unpredictability of reality is the inefficiency in the market that can be exploited. I have my doubts about that.

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