Nassim Nicholas Taleb boasts about showing up at an international think tank on the theory of prediction with his speech written on “five restaurant napkins, some stained”. Half a paragraph later he stresses the importance of being humble and not overestimating our confidence in any acquired knowledge.
There is therefore no need for me to list the massive amounts of quotes from this book that can work as unshakable evidence of the author’s exaggerated self-opinion (I’m being nice). And this is not some remark that’s related to the book; this is the very heart of both the contents and the writing style of the book.
In addition to (countless) stuff similar to the stained napkin business, The Black Swan includes interesting elements of skepticism which have been re-approached in the past by others. And of course there is nothing wrong with that. What’s wrong is that these elements are presented here as almost radical knowledge that statisticians, mathematicians and economists (whom the author consistently insults as “phonies”or “charlatans” shockingly enough) are not aware of. Also, what might have been a somewhat interesting 5-page essay, expands to 480 pages of babble that, from a mathematical point of view, is also inconsistent I’m afraid.
All in all, a very naive, careless and self-contradictory approach to the limits of human knowledge; naive, when it’s not irritating that is.