February 23, 2008

Fooled By Randomness (June 04 2005)

Looking back I think I actually underrated this book. I come back s to this book and the later Black Swans frequently and they have had a definite impact on my thinking.

Reading a quite interesting book at the moment called "Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the markets"
Its written by a guy called Nassim Nicholas Taleb a deeply eccentric and highly intelligent Options Trader...
In it he discusses the fact that we judge traders (and people in general) almost exclusively by outcomes not on how intelligent their decisions were given the information they had available to them at the time. Essenitally its a treatise on the universilty of the monday morning quarterback problem. We dramtically downplay the element of chance... He argues that successful traders are often just lucky traders and what we assign to skill is primarily due to a random distribution of success and failure... "Of course this ground has been wellcovered in books like "A Random Walk Down Wall Street" BUT Taleb isnt arguing for efficiency of markets... He believes that markets are actually inefficient in key ways particularly in their response to unexpected events... This isnt a how to book designed to help you increase the size of your portfolio. Its more of a general survey of life as Taleb sees it. In it he touches on classical literature, neuroscience, behavioral psychology and a host of other areas, bringing in Homer, Karl Popper, Richard Feynman Georgre Soros and a host of of other characters. The whole thing is written in a rambling but elegant stream of consciosuness style that I found very enjoyable. What I find particularly amusing is the authors extreme arrogance about his own humility.
The book is a little bloated BUT I enjoyed the intelligent rambling and frequent autobiographical digressions

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