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Book Review: "The Bed of Procrustes: Philosophical and Practical Aphorisms", by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

The Incerto Series:


smiling

After reading this book, I can kind of tell the relation between an aphorism and the oft-mentioned Procrustean bed. The Procrustean bed, by myth, stretches short people to fit into tall beds, and dismembers tall people to fit into short beds. Most people have an idea of how the world works (e.g. “the bed”), and an aphorism can bring that viewpoint crashing down (e.g. “Procrustes”). So if we had an initial approximation of how the world works, Taleb sprinkles a few more data points to change that viewpoint.

I do think you would need to read other books by Taleb in order to have this book make any sense. I do get the “scientific” nature of how proving one data point can invalidate an entire theory, and I think this is where the book is trying to go. Otherwise, reading the other books may be of more value starting off, since this book appears more of a supplement of compressed tidbits than a standalone copy. It could also be that I read through this book too quickly (Taleb advises reading a max of four sections at any time).