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Fooled by Randomness

The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets

by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Fooled by Randomness is a standalone book in Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s landmark Incerto series, an investigation of opacity, luck, uncertainty, probability, human error, risk, and decision-making in a world we don’t understand. The other books in the series are The Black Swan, Antifragile, Skin in the Game, and The Bed of Procrustes.

Fooled by Randomness is the word-of-mouth sensation that will change the way you think about business and the world. Nassim Nicholas Taleb–veteran trader, renowned risk expert, polymathic scholar, erudite raconteur, and New York Times bestselling author of The Black Swan–has written a modern classic that turns on its head what we believe about luck and skill.

This book is about luck–or more precisely, about how we perceive and deal with luck in life and business. Set against the backdrop of the most conspicuous forum in which luck is mistaken for skill–the world of trading–Fooled by Randomness provides captivating insight into one of the least understood factors in all our lives. Writing in an entertaining narrative style, the author tackles major intellectual issues related to the underestimation of the influence of happenstance on our lives.

The book is populated with an array of characters, some of whom have grasped, in their own way, the significance of chance: the baseball legend Yogi Berra; the philosopher of knowledge Karl Popper; the ancient world’s wisest man, Solon; the modern financier George Soros; and the Greek voyager Odysseus. We also meet the fictional Nero, who seems to understand the role of randomness in his professional life but falls victim to his own superstitious foolishness.

However, the most recognizable character of all remains unnamed–the lucky fool who happens to be in the right place at the right time–he embodies the “survival of the least fit.” Such individuals attract devoted followers who believe in their guru’s insights and methods. But no one can replicate what is obtained by chance.

Are we capable of distinguishing the fortunate charlatan from the genuine visionary? Must we always try to uncover nonexistent messages in random events? It may be impossible to guard ourselves against the vagaries of the goddess Fortuna, but after reading Fooled by Randomness we can be a little better prepared.

**Named by Fortune One of the Smartest Books of All Time

A Financial Times Best Business Book of the Year**

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Recommendations: 3

Categories: Business & CareersMoney & FinancePhilosophy

Reading time: 78 hours


Matt Mullenweg

The second is a much more controversial author, but I would say ever since I was exposed to one of his early works, Fooled by Randomness and The Black Swan, I will probably always be a fan of Nassim Taleb and he is, you know, a writer who is not humble, who, you know, is not afraid of sprinkling tons of obscure references and non-obscure references. You could easily take one of his books and then read 20 or 30 others, but he is a provocative thinker. He is an original thinker in many ways. He’s a fun writer and he writes in a very engaging style and whether you agree with or disagree with him, I think your mind will be sharper for having read his work and considered it. The Black Swan was, I think, the very first one I read of his and a wonderful introduction. But all of his books are quite fun and funny and I will continue to keep reading everything that he publishes.

Nick Kokonas
Restaurant Executive and Author

Fooled by Randomness. Almost everyone in my office is forced to read that. I’ve definitely given that away.

Tim Ferriss
Entrepreneur, Investor, Author, and Podcaster

Note: You may expand your answer to include any books that you find particularly interested but haven’t equally gifted, if at all. Given that, I would add The Black Swan and Fooled by Randomness, both by Nassim Taleb.