review: the bed of procrustes by nassim nicholas taleb

I jumped in both feet in buying this book. I read Taleb's The Black Swanand (as of this writing, part of) Fooled by Randomness. I found both very thought provoking and, in the case of the former, my interest fueled enough to read a couple references. Without looking into it further, I pulled to book into my Kindle and started reading and where I was expecting discussions about aphorisms found essentially nothing but aphorisms. The prose I was accustomed to was reduced to independent (though related if digested to a reasonable degree) statements. It is another way of delivering the ideas. At first I felt a bit "seriously?" but once I was passed the initial surprise it was refreshing.

As always, Taleb is not lacking for unforgiving conviction (colored by his confident sense of humility) but that makes his writing quite focused. In the prose-based books he tries to cover the space of his ideas, arguing from multiple points of view, and the confidence helps cut to the chase more efficiently. The aphorisms take that approach even further. I don't necessarily agree with the assertions of all of the aphorisms but that's entirely the point - the reader should arrive at his own conclusions. Having come to respect his ability to be insightful, the aphorisms were worth considering.

In gathering my thoughts before writing this I considered how I might recommend reading the book: by chapter or by individual aphorism. There's merit to both but I think I lean to reading by chapter as there are common threads. I understand the point of an aphorism is to be standalone but there is also something to be said about the larger picture.

An interesting impact this book has had has been at the breakfast table. I am fortunate enough to have the flexibility in my schedule to be one who ensures my seven-year-old daughter is fed, dressed, and at the bus stop on time. We eat a quiet breakfast every morning together and it affords an opportunity to engage in interesting conversations. Sometimes we discuss things such as mathematical concepts, those way beyond the second grade expectations, and sometimes its just as simple as her telling me about her day (I work nights twice a week and arrive home after she's in bed). The aphorisms have given us something else to talk about.

I think the book is worthwhile if aphorisms are of interest. It really provides an opportunity for reflection if you take the time to do so.

[Of course, I realize, taking at face value some aphorisms in the chapter, "The Republic of Letters", the fact that I have written this review invalidates it. So take for what it is (or isn't) worth.]

No comments:

Post a Comment