My good colleague Alistair lent me a couple of books that I was finally able to get around to reading on my recent holiday. Fifteen hours travelling on a number of planes gives you plenty of time to read a book! One of the books I finished was The Black Swan. It’s been on my list of books to read so I’m glad that I finally read it.
The contents of the book are juicy, detailed and highly relevant given the state of the current economy. It’s almost a little bit too detailed to the point where I almost found it quite hard to read. The author writes using a very flowery, whimsical style, combining stories and facts to drive home the key idea to the book: Hugely significant events occur in ways that we refuse to acknowledge or be able to cope with.
His stories (sometimes false ones) create pictures and explain historical events where we try to observe data, and attempt to create models to predict the future, yet we never seem to be able to accept a completely unexpected event will eventually come along.
More importantly, he uses the book to describe how these highly improbable events having an unforeseen impact. The author chooses his words carefully to distinguish between those events where one simple random sample (e.g. people’s heights) may not affect an overall sample, but many examples in history change the game.