Chaos Kings: How Wall Street Traders Make Billions in the New Age of Crisis
Written by a veteran Wall Street Journal reporter, this is a fascinating deep dive into the world of billion-dollar traders and high-stakes crisis predictors who strive to turn extreme events into financial windfalls.
There’s no doubt that our world has gotten more extreme. Pandemics, climate change, superpower rivalries, cyberattacks, political radicalization—virtually, everywhere we look there is mayhem bearing down on us, putting trillions of assets at risk.
And at least two factions have formed around how to respond. In Chaos Kings, Scott Patterson depicts how one faction, led by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, bestselling author of The Black Swan, believes humans can never see the big disaster coming. In their view, extreme events—so-called Black Swans—while inevitable, will always catch us by surprise. In 2007, Taleb’s longtime collaborator, Mark Spitznagel, launched the Universa hedge fund, which would go on to make billions protecting investors against unforeseen chaos in the market.
A second faction, which relies on complex formulas, believes looming chaos can be detected. Chief among these risk prognosticators is Didier Sornette, a colorful French mathematician who enjoys riding his motorcycle at speeds in excess of 170 miles per hour. When Sornette looks out from what he calls his Financial Crisis Observatory in Zurich, Switzerland, what he sees are Dragon Kings—punishing events that are unlikely to occur but have probabilities that can be predicted…and defended against.
Which faction is right? All of our financial futures may depend on the answer.
Where to Buy
- Publisher: Scribner
- Publication Date: June 6, 2023
- Length: 336 pages
- ISBN-13: 978-1982179939
- ISBN-10: 1982179937
Scott Patterson is a Wall Street Journal investigative reporter focused on climate tech. He’s the author of The Quants, Dark Pools, and the upcoming Chaos Kings.
“In Chaos Kings, the indefatigable Scott Patterson has done it again: delivered a riveting account of Wall Street mavericks whose unconventional understanding of risk has netted them a fortune and us a fascinating account of how they did it. The unlikely partnership between Mark Spitznagel and Nassim Taleb has made them rich, saved their clients from financial calamity and, under Patterson’s deft pen, produced an epic page turner.”
William D. CohanNYT Bestselling Author
“We live in a world of pandemics, climate change, war, and unstable institutions. Scott Patterson’s fascinating Chaos Kings is a provocative look at those placing big bets who believe they have tamed the financial risk whipped up by these unruly beasts. It holds perceptive insights for anyone who lives—or invests—in our modern uncertain world.”
Russell GoldAuthor of Superpower & The Boom
“The world is an increasingly unstable place, threatening to go off the rails at any time. This chaos is devastating to many, but a boon to a few who are cashing in on it. Read this engaging book to learn about who they are and how they do it.”
Mark ZandiChief Economist of Moody’s Analytics
“Wall Street Journal stalwart Patterson continues his explorations of high finance with a clutch of contrarian risk takers… Deft, accessible analysis and guidance.”
Kirkus ReviewsStarred Review
“Scott Patterson’s Chaos Kings is an extraordinary exploration of cutting-edge efforts to understand the manifold and interconnected risks slamming civilization at an alarming rate. It’s a critical read for anyone with an interest in what’s coming next and how to prepare for it, financially and otherwise. Scott has an uncanny knack for diving into the fascinating convergence of technology and investing, so I’m always excited to see what he’s discovering.”
Bradley HopeNYT Bestselling Author
“Fast paced like a thriller but, also, thought-provoking in its willingness to show us the range of possible catastrophes, Chaos Kings tracks the adventures of contrarian investors who, rather than hide from chaos and confusion, seek it out. Their reward in many cases: a fortune. This book teems with great stories as well as market insights that you won’t get from conventional investors.”
Aaron BrownFormer Chief Risk Manager at AQR Capital Management
“A richly reported work that features a fascinating ensemble of quirky characters. Important reading for anyone interested in risk-taking now—and in the future.”
Anita RaghavanAuthor of The Billionaire’s Apprentice
“An illuminating investigation…The author has a knack for translating complicated financial maneuvers into easily comprehensible terms…Detailed yet accessible, this will appeal to fans of Michael Lewis’s The Big Short.”
“Financial markets covet stability; they don’t like surprises. In our new age of crisis, Scott Patterson convincingly recounts how a unique type of trader has learned to embrace the disruptions and make a lot of money doing so. Combining risk theory, finance, and portraits of some of the most interesting billionaires of doom, Patterson takes us on a disturbing tour of what could come tumbling down. But he also provides a detailed road map showing average citizens how to steer past catastrophe. You’ll be left wondering whether these Chaos Kings are brilliant, opportunistic, visionary, or even loathsome. In Patterson’s lively account, you’ll definitely find them fascinating.”
Juliette KayyemFormer Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security
“A captivating, important, and unsettling book. Chaos Kings takes a timely look at how to survive and prosper in an increasingly uncertain and unstable world of global warming, pandemics, and geopolitical danger.”