Fooled by Randomness by Nassim Taleb

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My Rating: 6/10
Published or Updated On: 
November 12, 2022

Big Picture Thoughts

More of an entertaining long essay than a self-help book. Don't expect a concise how-to, this is Taleb waxing poetic about how bad we are math. He's grumpy in an amusing way.

The Main Ideas

  1. Humans have a really hard time intuitively understanding randomness.
  2. People who are really successful are usually the beneficiaries of variance & luck, rather than skill.
  3. We tend to seek patterns where there are none, let emotions influence our thinking and are affected by other cognitive biases.

Summary Notes

💡 People often mistake luck and variance for skill, i.e. survivor-ship bias Successful performers will emerge even among a group of very poor performers, provided that there’s enough of them. External observers will easily misconstrue results for skills.

“Our minds are not quite designed to understand how the world works, but, rather, to get out of trouble rapidly and have progeny. If they were made for us to understand things, then we would have a machine in it that would run the past history as in a VCR, with a correct chronology, and it would slow us down so much that we would have trouble operating.”

We fancy ourselves rational beings but the truth is we are inescapably emotional.

His magnus opus statement: “We favor the visible, the embedded, the personal, the narrated, and the tangible. We scorn the abstract. Everything good — aesthetics, ethics — and wrong — fooled by randomness — with us seems to flow from it.”

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