Nassim Nicholas Taleb: The black swan: The impact of the highly improbable
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Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s The Black Swan is a fascinating but deeply flawed book. The book’s central thesis, that the statistical models beloved by mainstream economists and social scientists apply to the real world at best roughly and sometimes very poorly indeed, will find favor with Austrian and other heterodox economists. However, what could have been a sound if more modest book is damaged by Taleb’s enthusiastic embrace of the role of maverick intellectual and his consequent weakness for hyperbole and unfounded criticisms of those he sees as ivory tower academics. Academics are not always right, of course, and there is a place for outsider critiques of their ideas, but neither are they always wrong, and it is all too easy to fall into the trap, as Taleb does, of criticizing ideas one does not fully grasp.
Taleb’s central metaphor of the eponymous black swan arises from the fact that scientists purportedly held that, by inductive reasoning, they could conclude that all swans are...