Tuesday, 20 October 2009

The Black Swan: Umberto Eco's Untilibrary, or How We Seek Validation

I like the title of this section of the book. An antilibrary is a library full of unread books or in which there are more unread books than read books.

If you want to know what Part One is about, read the next paragraph:

The chapters in this section address the question of how we humans deal with knowledge -and our preference for the anecdotal over the empirical. Chapter 1 present the Black Swan as grounded in the story of my own obssesion. I will make a central distinction between the two varieties of randomness in Chapter 3. After that, Chapter 4 briefly return to the Black Swan problem: a) The error of confirmation, or how we are likely to undeservedly scorn the virgin part of the library (the tendency to look at what confirms our knowledge, not our ignorance), in Chapter 5; b) the narrative fallacy, or how we fool ourselves with stories and anecdotes (Chapter 6); c) how emotions get in the way of our inference (Chapter 7); and d) the problem of silent evidence, or the tricks history uses to hide the Black Swans from us (Chapter 8). Chapter 9 discusses the lethal fallacyof building knowledge from the world of games.

Monday, 19 October 2009

The Black Swan: Prologue

A Black Swan is an extraordinary and unexpected event. It can't be predicted and after it has happened people try to know its reasons. Some examples of black swans are:

- the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001;
- the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 2004;
- the success of J. K. Rowling with her Harry Potter books;
- and the Internet.

The author tell us what we are going to find in the book:

The sequence of this book follows a simple logic; it flows from what can be labeled purely literary (in subject and treatment) to what can be deemed entirely scientific (in subject, though not in treatment). Psychology will be mostly present in Part One and in the early part of Part Two; business and natural science will be dealt with mostly in the second half of Part Two and in Part Three. Part One, "Umberto Eco's Antilibrary", is mostly about how we perceive historical and current events and what distortions are present in such perception. Part Two, "We Just Can't Predict", is about our errors in dealing with the future and the unadvertised limitations of some "sciences" -and what to do about these limitations. Part Three, "Those Gray Swans Extremistan", goes deeper into the topic of extreme events, explains how the bell curve (that great intellectual fraud) is generated, and reviews the ideas in the natural and social sciences loosely lumped under the label "complexity". Part Four, "The End", will be very short.

Friday, 16 October 2009

The Black Swan

Yesterday afternoon I started reading the book "The Black Swan" by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

This is the synopsis of this non-fiction book:

What have the invention of the wheel, Pompeii, the Wall Street Crash, Harry Potter and the internet got in common?

Why should you never run for a train or read a newspaper?

What can Catherine the Great\'s lovers tell us about probability?

Why are all forecasters con-artists?

This book is all about Black Swans: the random events that underlie our lives, from bestsellers to world disasters. Their impact is huge; they're nearly impossible to predict; yet after they happen we always try to rationalize them. A rallying cry to ignore the 'experts', The Black Swan shows us how to stop trying to predict everything and take advantage of uncertainty.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Planet 51

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Films to be released in October

Whatever Works

Couples Retreat

Law Abiding Citizen

The Stepfather

Where the Wild Things Are


Astro Boy

The Vampire's Assistant

Michael Jackson's "This Is It"


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