The Black Swan

The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb


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Show Notes:

This episode of Cocktail Party Statement covers The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb who first became known for his book Fooled by Randomness which discusses history and reasons for our predilection for self-deception when it comes to statistics. Now, in The Black Swan: the Impact of the Highly Improbable, he focuses on that most dismal of sciences, predicting the future. Forecasting is not just at the heart of Wall Street, but it’s something each of us does every time we make an insurance payment or strap on a seat belt.

From Amazon: The problem, Nassim explains, is that we place too much weight on the odds that past events will repeat (diligently trying to follow the path of the “millionaire next door,” when unrepeatable chance is a better explanation). Instead, the really important events are rare and unpredictable. He calls them Black Swans, which is a reference to a 17th century philosophical thought experiment. In Europe all anyone had ever seen were white swans; indeed, “all swans are white” had long been used as the standard example of a scientific truth. So what was the chance of seeing a black one? Impossible to calculate, or at least they were until 1697, when explorers found Cygnus atratus in Australia.

Our Cocktail Party Statements:

Phil – “We’re trapped in a way of learning and thinking.”

Aaron – “Life is about outliers and how to find them.”

Karin – “We learn from repetition – at the expense of events that have not happened before.”