February 29, 2008

The Black Swan...

In Nassim Nicholas Taleb's book The Black Swan he defines a black swan as, "a large-impact, hard-to-predict, and rare event beyond the realm of normal expectations." Taleb regards many scientific discoveries as black swans—"undirected" and unpredicted. The term black swan comes from the Western conception that all swans were white. In that context, a black swan became a metaphor for something that could not exist..until they were actually discovered in Australia. Taleb questions why this would be a surprising discovery and suggests that we are hard-wired to find order in randomness. Taleb mixes financial economics and biology, discusses capitalism and terrorist attacks, happiness and reasoning and philosophy to name a few. It is original and thought provoking and seems that there is an underlying message to us all that we overreact to unknown and unforseen events...very Monty Python.

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