The book was selected by Fortune as one of the 75 "Smartest Books of All Time."U.S.A Today recounted that many criticisms raised in this book of the financial industry turned out to be justified.Forbes admitted to the book being playful, self-effacing and at times insufferably arrogant, but always thought provoking.The Wall Street Journal (one of the publications that Taleb pokes fun at in his book) called Universa Investments' buys in October 2008 a "Black Swan gain (alluding to the Black Swans mentioned in the book)" The New Yorker (one of the publications which receives more favourable comments in this book) said that the book was to conventional Wall street wisdom what Martin Luther’s ninety-nine theses [sic] were to the Catholic Church.
Taleb sets forth the idea that modern humans are often unaware of the existence of randomness. They tend to explain random outcomes as non-random.
overestimate causality, e.g., they see elephants in the clouds instead of understanding that they are in fact randomly shaped clouds that appear to our eyes as elephants (or something else);
tend to view the world as more explainable than it really is. So they look for explanations even when there are none.
Other misperceptions of randomness that are discussed include:
Survivorship bias. We see the winners and try to "learn" from them, while forgetting the huge number of losers.
Skewed distributions. Many real life phenomena are not 50:50 bets like tossing a coin, but have various unusual and counter-intuitive distributions. An example of this is a 99:1 bet in which you almost always win, but when you lose, you lose all your savings. People can easily be fooled by statements like "I won this bet 50 times". According to Taleb: "Option sellers, it is said, eat like chickens and go to the bathroom like elephants", which is to say, option sellers may earn a steady small income from selling the options, but when a disaster happens they lose a fortune.
In 2001, TEXERE published the first edition of the book. (ISBN 1-58799-071-7, London : Texere, 2001)
In 2004, TEXERE published a revamped second edition.