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Review Of The Black Swan By Taleb, Nassim Nicholas

1044 words - 5 pages

The Black Swan is a book about the importance of the unexpected. Taleb used the allegory of the Black Swan to explain how people often expect what is known and seem to forget that an unknown event can happen. The Black Swan metaphor was drawn from earlier beliefs that Black Swans don’t exist. Before the year 1697, no one has ever been reported to have seen a black swan. Consequently, people believed that all swans were white. However in 1697, a Black Swan was discovered which proved original beliefs wrong. This is the basis for Taleb’s argument. People make the mistake of believing that something will not happen because it has never happened, but when it eventually takes place it comes ...view middle of the document...

According to him, people would rather pretend to live in a Mediocristan environment rather than an Extremistan environment because of the absence of the black swan in a Mediocristan society. His argument is that the more we accept that life is unpredictable the better chances we stand in managing these events.
Taleb described two internal mechanisms behind people’s blindness to the Black Swan which he said is confirmation bias and the narrative fallacy. The confirmation bias he referred to as people’s tendency to look for instances that confirm their story, and these past instances they treat as evidence. According to him, “it is misleading to build a general rule from observed facts.” (p. 56) That an event has not been observed does not mean it does not exist. The observation of an event does not mean other events don’t exist. Using the black swan metaphor, the observation of white swans does not make all swans white. Black swans may exist but just not yet seen. Taleb then argues that relying on what has been observed is detrimental to people.
Narrative fallacy on the other hand, he explains as our limited ability to look at “sequences without weaving an explanation into them, or equivalently, forcing a logical link, an arrow of relationship, upon them.” (p. 64) He further said that although these explanations help us understand events, the downside is that it gives us a false sense of superior understanding. Taleb used various examples to show what a Black Swan event is. Such as the fictitious writer, Yevgenia Krasnova, “a neuroscientist with an interest in philosophy” whose book became a success, the Lebanese civil war, the financial crisis etc. These events were unexpected but they did happen and their impact was massive. He went to great lengths to explain the Black Swan and to convince his audience that they are real. He advised that people should view predictions based on how much harm they can cause not on how credible they are and to always be prepared for the unforeseen.
What can be done to mitigate the effect of Black Swan events? He...

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