The Blank Swan: The End of Probability

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October 19th 1987 was a day of huge change for theglobal finance industry. On this day the stock market crashed, theNobel Prize winning Black-Scholes formula failed and volatilitysmiles were born, and on this day Elie Ayache began his career, onthe trading floor of the French Futures and Options Exchange.

Experts everywhere sought to find a model for this event, andways to simulate it in order to avoid a recurrence in the future,but the one thing that struck Elie that day was the belief thatwhat actually happened on 19th October 1987 is simplynon reproducible outside 19th October 1987 – youcannot reduce it to a chain of causes and effects, or even to arandom generator, that can then be reproduced or represented in atheoretical framework.

The Blank Swan is Elie's highly original treatise on thefinancial markets – presenting a totally revolutionaryrethinking of derivative pricing and technology. It is not adiatribe against Nassim Taleb’s The Black Swan, butcriticises the whole background or framework of predictable andunpredictable events – white and black swans alike - , i.e.the very category of prediction.

In this revolutionary book, Elie redefines the components of thetechnology needed to price and trade derivatives. Most importantly,and drawing on a long tradition of philosophy of the event fromHenri Bergson to Gilles Deleuze, to Alain Badiou, and on a recentbrand of philosophy of contingency, embodied by the speculativematerialism of Quentin Meillassoux, Elie redefines the marketitself against the common perceptions of orthodox financial theory,general equilibrium theory and the sociology of finance.

This book will change the way that we think about derivativesand approach the market. If anything derivatives should be renamedcontingent claims, where contingency is now absolute and nolonger derivative, and the market is just its medium. The book alsoestablishes the missing link between quantitative modelling (nolonger dependent on probability theory but on a novel brand ofmathematics which Elie calls the mathematics of price) andthe reality of the market.

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About the author

Elie Ayache was born in Lebanon in 1966. Trained as an engineer at l’École Polytechnique of Paris, he pursued a career of option market-maker on the floor of MATIF (1987-1990) and LiFFE (1990-1995). He then turned to the philosophy of probability (DEA at la Sorbonne) and to derivative pricing, and co-founded of ITO 33, a financial software company, in 1999. Today, ITO 33 is the leading specialist in the pricing of convertible bonds, in the equity-to-credit problem, and more generally, in the calibration and recalibration of volatility surfaces. Elie has published many articles in the philosophy of contingent claims, as well as a book, dedicated to the philosophy of writing.
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Additional Information

Publisher
John Wiley & Sons
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Published on
May 5, 2010
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Pages
496
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ISBN
9780470661765
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Language
English
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Genres
Business & Economics / Finance / General
Business & Economics / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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In The Medium of Contingency Elie Ayache builds upon his ground-breaking book The Blank Swan, in exploring the intersection of philosophy and finance, introducing new notions of price and market. Inverting the received view, he now sees a creation of matter in both the market and its metaphysics, rather than pure speculation.

Once recognized as the proper medium of contingency and disassociated from the probabilistic and statistical tools traditionally used to model it, the market can be thought as 'real', in a new sense of reality corresponding to the new sense of matter. To bring this new and original perspective, The Medium of Contingency builds on probability theory as first formalized by von Mises and Kolmogorov, and later revisited by Shafer and Vovk. It utilises the author's extensive experience in derivatives pricing technology and software, as well as his work in the philosophy of contingency and contingent claims, to propose a new philosophical interpretation of Brownian motion and of the Black-Scholes-Merton formula. Then it completes the overturning of the traditional view of the market by arguing that there should be no difference, ultimately, between an underlying asset and the derivative written on it.

This book does not aim to change the market but the way we must think of it. It is the author's conviction that there can be no philosophy of the market, and consequently no thinking of it, without a philosophy of contingent claims and of derivative pricing. The book provides the missing piece, which the philosophy of probability cannot provide alone. Its scope, however, extends beyond the strict critique of financial mathematics, as it also, and perhaps most importantly, delivers the author's definitive treatment of the philosophically prominent and recently much discussed notion of contingency.

The Black Swan is a standalone book in Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s landmark Incerto series, an investigation of opacity, luck, uncertainty, probability, human error, risk, and decision-making in a world we don’t understand. The other books in the series are Fooled by Randomness, Antifragile, Skin in the Game, and The Bed of Procrustes.

A black swan is a highly improbable event with three principal characteristics: It is unpredictable; it carries a massive impact; and, after the fact, we concoct an explanation that makes it appear less random, and more predictable, than it was. The astonishing success of Google was a black swan; so was 9/11. For Nassim Nicholas Taleb, black swans underlie almost everything about our world, from the rise of religions to events in our own personal lives.
 
Why do we not acknowledge the phenomenon of black swans until after they occur? Part of the answer, according to Taleb, is that humans are hardwired to learn specifics when they should be focused on generalities. We concentrate on things we already know and time and time again fail to take into consideration what we don’t know. We are, therefore, unable to truly estimate opportunities, too vulnerable to the impulse to simplify, narrate, and categorize, and not open enough to rewarding those who can imagine the “impossible.”
 
For years, Taleb has studied how we fool ourselves into thinking we know more than we actually do. We restrict our thinking to the irrelevant and inconsequential, while large events continue to surprise us and shape our world. In this revelatory book, Taleb explains everything we know about what we don’t know, and this second edition features a new philosophical and empirical essay, “On Robustness and Fragility,” which offers tools to navigate and exploit a Black Swan world.
 
Elegant, startling, and universal in its applications, The Black Swan will change the way you look at the world. Taleb is a vastly entertaining writer, with wit, irreverence, and unusual stories to tell. He has a polymathic command of subjects ranging from cognitive science to business to probability theory. The Black Swan is a landmark book—itself a black swan.
 
Praise for Nassim Nicholas Taleb
 
“The most prophetic voice of all.”—GQ
 
Praise for The Black Swan
 
“[A book] that altered modern thinking.”—The Times (London)
 
“A masterpiece.”—Chris Anderson, editor in chief of Wired, author of The Long Tail
 
“Idiosyncratically brilliant.”—Niall Ferguson, Los Angeles Times
 
“The Black Swan changed my view of how the world works.”—Daniel Kahneman, Nobel laureate
 
“[Taleb writes] in a style that owes as much to Stephen Colbert as it does to Michel de Montaigne. . . . We eagerly romp with him through the follies of confirmation bias [and] narrative fallacy.”—The Wall Street Journal
 
“Hugely enjoyable—compelling . . . easy to dip into.”—Financial Times
 
“Engaging . . . The Black Swan has appealing cheek and admirable ambition.”—The New York Times Book Review
In The Medium of Contingency Elie Ayache builds upon his ground-breaking book The Blank Swan, in exploring the intersection of philosophy and finance, introducing new notions of price and market. Inverting the received view, he now sees a creation of matter in both the market and its metaphysics, rather than pure speculation.

Once recognized as the proper medium of contingency and disassociated from the probabilistic and statistical tools traditionally used to model it, the market can be thought as 'real', in a new sense of reality corresponding to the new sense of matter. To bring this new and original perspective, The Medium of Contingency builds on probability theory as first formalized by von Mises and Kolmogorov, and later revisited by Shafer and Vovk. It utilises the author's extensive experience in derivatives pricing technology and software, as well as his work in the philosophy of contingency and contingent claims, to propose a new philosophical interpretation of Brownian motion and of the Black-Scholes-Merton formula. Then it completes the overturning of the traditional view of the market by arguing that there should be no difference, ultimately, between an underlying asset and the derivative written on it.

This book does not aim to change the market but the way we must think of it. It is the author's conviction that there can be no philosophy of the market, and consequently no thinking of it, without a philosophy of contingent claims and of derivative pricing. The book provides the missing piece, which the philosophy of probability cannot provide alone. Its scope, however, extends beyond the strict critique of financial mathematics, as it also, and perhaps most importantly, delivers the author's definitive treatment of the philosophically prominent and recently much discussed notion of contingency.

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