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

It is easy to dismiss this book by thinking it is somewhat arrogant, but that would be foolish as it doesn’t remove the importance and rightfulness of the message; it proves the point we are fallible and have hidden biases which influence our actions and reactions. Not to mention that chance plays an important role in our lives. More than we like to admit.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb goes over the thought patterns we have and how they affect our risk-taking, planning, and how we judge others and ourselves. The book is full of anecdotes: stories about the writers past as a trader, personal history, and stories about two different trades to prove the point of the book. There is also argumentation against and for different scientist and traders. If you have ever read Social Psychology’s findings of human biases and thinking, then you know the most he is writing about. At times, it felt like a textbook example like say Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People by Mahzarin R. Banaji, but what makes Fooled by Randomness special is the personal account of the writer. And as he writes: we remember things/ideas/matters/facts better if it is personal or/and a story. He succeeded in what he meant to do with the book.

I think this book has an important message. Not because of the insight to risk-taking, probabilities, stock markets, or our biases, but because it all combined says random things happen. That sometimes we are just plain unlucky, and it is not our own fault. But sometimes we make things worse by holding on stupid notions of how things should be, what we believe they are, and what we think of ourselves and our chances to make it. We can get swamped and blinded by information. We can let our notions get the better of us. And we can be fooled by everything and not see the forest from the trees. I liked this book. The appearing arrogance made me think the statement twice and judge myself what is true and what is not. That is a good thing. They got a reaction out of me. Isn’t that a purpose of any book?

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