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In his most provocative and practical book yet, one of the foremost thinkers of our time redefines what it means to understand the world, succeed in a profession, contribute to a fair and just society, detect nonsense, and influence others. Citing examples ranging from Hammurabi to Seneca, Antaeus the Giant to Donald Trump, Nassim Nicholas Taleb shows how the willingness to accept one's own risks is an essential attribute of heroes, saints, and flourishing people in all walks of life.
As always both accessible and iconoclastic, Taleb challenges long-held beliefs about the values of those who spearhead military interventions, make financial investments, and propagate religious faiths. Among his insights:
For social justice, focus on symmetry and risk sharing. You cannot make profits and transfer the risks to others, as bankers and large corporations do. You cannot get rich without owning your own risk and paying for your own losses. Forcing skin in the game corrects this asymmetry better than thousands of laws and regulations.
Ethical rules aren't universal. You're part of a group larger than you, but it's still smaller than humanity in general.
Minorities, not majorities, run the world. The world is not run by consensus but by stubborn minorities asymmetrically imposing their tastes and ethics on others.
You can be an intellectual yet still be an idiot. "Educated philistines" have been wrong on everything from Stalinism to Iraq to low carb diets.
Beware of complicated solutions (that someone was paid to find). A simple barbell can build muscle better than expensive new machines.
The phrase "skin in the game" is one we have often heard but have rarely stopped to truly dissect. It is the backbone of risk management, but it's also an astonishingly complex worldview that, as Taleb shows in this book, applies to all aspects of our lives. As Taleb says, "The symmetry of skin in the game is a simple rule that's necessary for fairness and justice and the ultimate BS-buster," and "Never trust anyone who doesn't have skin in the game. Without it, fools and crooks will benefit, and their mistakes will never come back to haunt them."
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Jeremy on 03-11-18
Brilliance smothered by Condescension and Petty Squabbling
I’ve enjoyed and applies Taleb’s insights for years, but this book was so infused with petty arguments and dismissive quips that it was difficult to pull anything useful from it. The author uncharacteristically wandered off topic so often that trying to reconstruct his arguments almost took more effort than the insight seemed worth. I think there were some pretty significant insights (“don’t confuse data for mathematical rigor” for example). But the book as a whole was so condescending and vitriolic to anyone who disagreed with the author about his past ideas, which is strange coming from someone who preaches such a stoic view of things. I think the author had some very important ideas, but it will take serious work to find them if you aren’t interested in taking the author’s side in all the flame wars he’s either started or been dragged into.
65 of 71 people found this review helpful
By Jeremy Teeter on 03-03-18
The expansion pack to Antifragile
If you've never read Taleb before, pass on this book for now and go read Fooled by Randomness or The Black Swan. This book, while fascinating to long time Taleb fans, is more preaching to the choir, and so he skips a lot of he lead up and background discussions that had been part of the backbone of his other books. I valued the discussion of minority rule and the concept of an absorbing barrier applied to financial ruin, and the authors use of unreliable narratives was entertaining as always. That said, the ideas in this book are minor points compared to his other works, and I found myself wishing he had waited another year or two to continue fleshing out the ideas in this book to allow it to be up to the same standards of his other works.
62 of 70 people found this review helpful
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Tim on 03-05-18
Another great work by Teleb
If you've read anything else by Teleb, you won't be disappointed with Skin in the Game. Another thoughtful rant covering many fields and subjects. If you haven't read anything by him before... I would suggest reading fooled by randomness first, but that's just personal preference, his books can be read in any order. I can't recommend them highly enough. They prove what the majority of people believe about risk, probability and indeed life, is wrong.
8 of 8 people found this review helpful
By Amazon Customer on 05-27-18
Skin in the Game is an enjoyable collection of anecdotes, observations and angry diatribes. It is also much inferior to the previous three volumes in the "Incerto" series. Taleb is still scratching the same itch and seeking after the same high. But he has run out of things to say.
His message remains important, but please go read Antifragile, Black Swan or Fooled by Randomness instead. They will give you everything you need. This aimless volume, which merely introduces a few new terms to explore again many of his familiar topics, can only be recommended to devoted Taleb fans.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By NietzcheIsGod on 07-23-18
Hit and miss
There are a few very interesting ideas, but too much of it is shallow, almost juvenile.
You can do better.
By Amazon Customer on 04-30-18
A bizarre but enlightening rant
I had many doubts about this book. The author can be hypocritical and blind to very obvious irony. However there are so many flashes of rare insight and interesting uses of language that it is ultimately a very rewarding read. Loved it! A contradiction, just like this book.
0 of 2 people found this review helpful