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Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in the Markets and in Life
Nassim Nicholas Taleb

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Format: Paperback, 368pp.
ISBN: 9780812975215
Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks
Pub. Date: 2nd Updtd edition August 23, 2005

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Description and Reviews
From The Publisher:

This book is about luck—or more precisely how we perceive and deal with luck in business and life.

Set against the backdrop of the most conspicuous forum in which luck is mistaken for skill—the world of trading—Fooled by Randomness is a captivating insight into one of the least understood factors in all our lives. Writing in an entertaining and narrative style, the author succeeds in tackling and explaining three major intellectual issues: the problem of induction, the survivorship biases, and our genetic unfitness to the modern world.

The book is populated with an array of characters, some of whom have grasped, in their own way, the significance of chance: Yogi Berra, the baseball legend; Karl Popper, the philosopher of knowledge; Solon, the Ancient World's wisest man; the modern financier George Soros; and the Greek voyager Ulysses. In addition we meet the fictional Nero, who seems to understand the role of randomness in his trading life, but who also falls victim to his own superstitious foolishness.

But the most recognizable character of all remains unnamed—the lucky fool in the right place at the right time. The embodiment of 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 through chance. A monkey banging on a keyboard may eventually produce the Iliad, but would you sign him to write the sequel?

Are we capable of distinguishing the fortunate charlatan from the genuine visionary?

Must we always try to uncover non-existent 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.


"I really like this book. We need a book like this, that helps us deal with our hard-wired human tendency to underestimate randomness. It is fun to read, refreshingly independently-minded and at the same time playful."
—Robert J. Shiller, Yale University, author of Irrational Exurberance


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About the Author

Nassim Nicholas Taleb is the founder of Empirica Capital LLC, a crisis-hunting trading firm, and a fellow and adjunct professor at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences of New York University. He held senior trading positions in New York and London and worked as a floor trader in Chicago. He has an M.B.A. from the Wharton School and a Ph.D. from the University of Paris Dauphine. He is the author of Dynamic Hedging (Wiley, 1997). He was inducted in February 2001 into the Derivatives Strategy Hall of Fame for his record of debunking myths and false gurus. In addition to his scientific and literary interests, Taleb is an avid sportsman. He also enjoys café lounging and museum hopping. Throughout Fooled by Randomness he is candid about his own genetic biases and weaknesses in perceiving and handling randomness.

Table of Contents
Part I: Solon’s Warning – Skewness, Asymmetry, Induction7
OneIf You’re So Rich Why Aren’t You So Smart?11
TwoA Bizarre Accounting Method26
ThreeA Mathematical Meditation on History40
FourRandomness, Nonsense, and the Scientific Intellectual60
FiveSurvival of the Least Fit – Can Evolution Be Fooled by Randomness?68
SixSkewness and Asymmetry84
SevenThe Problem of Induction99
Part II: Monkeys on Typewriters111
EightToo Many Millionaires Next Door117
NineIt Is Easier to Buy and Sell Than Fry and Egg125
TenLoser Takes All – On the Nonlinearities of Life142
ElevenRandomness and Our Brain: We Are Probability Blind149
Part III: Wax in My Ears169
TwelveGamblers’ Ticks and Pigeons in a Box175
ThirteenCarneades Comes to Rome: On Probability and Skepticism182
FourteenBacchus Abandons Antony191
Epilogue: Solon Told You So196

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