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  1. I finished this book about two weeks ago now. It's taken me this long to gather my thoughts enough to begin making comments. Generally I don't read much non-fiction, so I wasn't sure what to expect. I certainly didn't expect to still be thinking about some of the ideas so long after completing it. I was surprised by the conversational, easy style that Nassim Nicholas Taleb (or NNT) displayed. Some of the ideas he was trying to explain were quite conceptual, but were explained in a way that I found agreeable. It challenged my thinking; I understood his points and most importantly never felt like the author was talking down to me. This was something that I was secretly expecting. The inclusion of citing some of his personal history to expand on points helped a lot too. It gave a bit of personality to what always threatened to be an essay-style piece of writing. I'll begin with my biggest problem with the book: Essentially it is a 300 page book trying to explain that the world is a random place. Strange things happen, and it is impossible to predict the future. Am I the only person to think this is bordering on common sense? The realisation of that simple truth came after pondering the text for a while. It wasn't a revelation, and it didn't make me regret reading it, in fact it seemed to enforce the general ideas NNT's philosophies. There should be some great discussion arising from this book. There are so many little truths explained that seem simple enough but are ignored in general life. For example: • Is it better to be someone who assumes they know everything or someone who knows they know hardly anything? • How can we be sure of history without considering what hasn't been recorded? I found this part especially interesting. I had never given much thought that history in general might be wrong, or that massive assumptions might be made from unreliable evidence. • Concerning newspapers and informational media, it is important to consider what isn't being said rather than concentrating on what is being told. I think this is a vitally important realisation. I have always distanced myself from newspapers, considering them to be full of hateful scare mongering. Any information being retold is bound to be tainted by the teller’s agenda (maybe you should consider if I have an agenda writing this review? ). • The pointlessness of trying to predict the future by studying the past. There are many things you can learn by studying what has happened in the past (depending on the quality of your sources) but it is hopeless to believe that you can extrapolate that information into the unknown future. I feel that religion was sidestepped all of the way thought this book. I would be interested to know if NNT is a religious man. I would assume that some of his philosophies would be limited by a firm belief system. What do you think? Personally I have no firm beliefs, so the idea that the world is a wildly random place, a place that is so large and complex that things like luck and fate can be put down to coincidence by sheer scale, is a comfort to me. I find the idea that we exist by sheer chance is wonderful. To others it might be quite scary to think that they have no way of knowing what might happen to them. But, surely it is a delusion to think otherwise? The only other grumble I have is when NNT began plying his ideas into a specialised field in the third section of the book. It was necessary to do this to dispel the infamous bell-curve, but I preferred the generality of the first two sections. The third section is a slog, so much so that he actually asks you to skip it if you think it will be of no use to you. I persevered and found the parts about the people he admired quite enjoyable. To finish I'll say that I haven't read a book that has made me analyse and think so much before. It has changed the way I think about certain things and it's made me more comfortable to feel a bit confused about the world. Recently a friend asked me what I believed in? Did I believe in God? I happily replied, “I didn't know”. My friend then asked me why I smiled when I said that. The final thoughts in the book summed up the entire philosophy wonderfully. “You should only feel annoyed when missing a train if you made the effort to chase after it.” To me, this book is all about embracing the randomness of the world and taking control of your place in it. I can't wait to read all of your thoughts.
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