Skin in the Game

Skin in the Game

Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life

Book - 2018 | First edition
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Random House, Inc.
#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A bold new work from the author of The Black Swan that challenges many of our long-held beliefs about risk and reward, politics and religion, finance and personal responsibility

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 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.
• True religion is commitment, not just faith. How much you believe in something is manifested only by what you’re willing to risk for it.

The phrase “skin in the game” is one we have often heard but rarely stopped to truly dissect. It is the backbone of risk management, but it’s also an astonishingly rich 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.”

Baker & Taylor
Discusses how the willingness to accept one's own risks is an essential attribute for defining what it means to understand the world, succeed in life, contribute to a fair and just society, and influence others.

Book News
Taleb, a Lebanese-American essayist, scholar, statistician, former trader, and risk analyst, called “the hottest thinker in the world”, focuses on problems of randomness, probability, and uncertainty. He contends that the world cannot be understood without having skin in the game. Having skin in the game is, for the great part, about honor, justice, and sacrifice. Applied as a rule, it reduces the effects of a number of divergences that bloomed with the growth of civilization: e.g., consequence and intention, expertise and charlatanism, action and cheap talk, honor and reputation, strength and display, among others. First, it is BS identifier and filter; second, it is about symmetry and reciprocity, not inflicting on others the cost of your mistakes; third, keeping an eye on how much information should be shared with others; and fourth, it is about rationality and the test of time. Skin in the Game is also about uncertainty and reality, symmetry in human affairs, information sharing, and rationality in complex systems and in the real world. Having a stake in the game engenders understanding of the puzzles that live beneath reality’s fine-grained matrix. Questions to be answered: Why do uncompromising minorities run the world? Why are there more people enslaved now than in Roman times? What is the foundational logic of risk bearing? Nineteen chapters are divided into eight books: introduction; a first look at agency; that greatest symmetry; wolves among goes; being alive means taking certain risks; deeper into agency; religion, belief, and skin in the game; risk and rationality. There is a glossary, technical appendix, notes, a bibliography, and appendixes. Annotation ©2018 Ringgold, Inc., Portland, OR (

& Taylor

From the New York Times best-selling author of The Black Swan comes a new work that challenges many of our long-held beliefs about risk and reward, politics and religion, finance and personal responsibility.

Publisher: New York : Random House, [2018]
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780425284629
Branch Call Number: 302.12 TALEB
Characteristics: xv, 279 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm


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Aug 23, 2018

Terrible book. The author just come across as arrogant and thinks he is smarter than anyone else.

Aug 11, 2018

the disparaging of others is an unfortunate distraction

Aug 05, 2018

Taleb has gone from innovative idea-man to arrogant so-and-so. He seems to think he is the only smart guy in the room. He has many axes to grind and seems incapable to discuss opinions, resorting to name-calling instead. Don't waste your time.

May 25, 2018

I read the Black Swan then Antifragile and waited to read this one. The idea of skin in the game appeared in Antifragile but in this book I feel like after watching the sequel of a successful movie. I don't understand why he is attacking some people without bothering to provide solid arguments (for instance Steven Pinker is attacked because his research is flawed but Nassim's explanation is, at best stupid, like war victims tend to be over reported, even in present day which actually does have no influence over the trend). Also he advises not to listen to experts and just follow older traditions and superstitions even if we don't understand why. Well, it's true that challenging them may reveal that some of them actually make sense but one has to be blind not to see the fact that today we're healthier, live longer precisely because we took the chance not to follow grandma's advice. Yes, we made mistakes but that's part of learning.
On the other hand, the reader can learn interesting facts like the intolerant minority rule.

May 06, 2018

I'm not sure why I felt compelled to stick with this book. Taleb is confrontational and writes with a huge chip on his shoulder. He constantly insults the people I admire the most, such as journalists at the New York Times or the New Yorker. He would likely think I was a IYI (Intellectual Yet Idiot). In fact, at one point, he basically said he cared nothing for readers who read the latest books as popularized by the NYT, which is basically what I do (and maybe that's where I heard about "Skin in the Game").

So, I was compelled to read a book by an author who cares nothing for me. Nice! (Or should I say, "Sad!")

I guess it's refreshing to step outside the bubble and get a different perspective. And many of his ideas make sense. Although most of them seem beyond me... which makes me feel like the idiot he says I am!

Mar 24, 2018

This book is not for the cowards, i.e. the politically correct, financial advisers who do not share the risk, bureaucrats, politicians. “The curse of modernity is that we are increasingly populated by a class of people who are better at explaining than understanding” or even "better explaining than doing". Those whom the author call IYI (intellectuals yet idiots), the seemingly knowledgable people but who have no skin in the game.

Taleb is a western intellect, however he has the wisdom of the East. Thus he is capable of seeing the world as it is and not to fool himself like many of the contemporary thinkers in the west. Remember, those who talk should do, and only those who do, should talk!

Read this book if you dare- "courage is the only virtue you cannot fake". It will make you understand, among so many practicalities in current life, why being soft to the demands of Islamism can and will destroy the World. Read to understand how "scientism" can fool you to replace an age-old tested process with a fake thing based on a peer-reviewed article that may not survive replication.

Taleb is certainly not a conformist. Reading him is a pleasure in a World getting rotten by the prominence of the likes of Hillary!


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