[ExI] The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable

Kaj Sotala xuenay at gmail.com
Wed Feb 27 13:21:01 UTC 2008

On 2/27/08, Technotranscendence <neptune at superlink.net> wrote:
> Has anyone here read the above book?  If so, comments?

I've read about a third - should get around finishing it some time.

I'd heard a lot about this book, so I'm a bit surprised over its
varying quality - it's written in an entertaining fashion, and it's
easy to read, but at the same time a lot of its easiness comes from
the fact that it's fluffy. For instance, there are lots of anecdotes,
and many of them seem to be in the book just for the sake of being
amusing anecdotes - they don't seem to be expressing much of a point.
(Don't get me wrong, not /all/ of the anecdotes are just amusing
fluff, but many are.) I get the feeling that this could've been
written a lot more concisely, so that's a definite minus. It's also
the main reason I haven't finished the book.

On the other hand, it /does/ contain interesting insights, such as the
notion of Mediocristan and Extremistan - that most phenomena can be
classed either into ones where frequent, regular, predictable
small-impact events make up most of it (earning money from a regular
day job that pays by the hour) or ones where rare, irregular,
unpredictable high-impact events make up most of it (earning money by
winning the lottery). It's plausibly argued that there are a lot of
events that we intuitively imagine to be "in" Mediocristan, when they
actually are "in" Extremistan, and this messes up a lot of our

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