Unpredictability and Randomness

The Black Swan

The black swan: the impact of the highly improbable
by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Random House
Q375 Tal 2007 Central, Hon Sui Sen Memorial and Medical/Science Libraries

Care to read a real insightful that shakes your comfort zone in life? This 400 page tome explains what a Black Swan is and why these birds cannot be foreseen or predicted. A black swan is a highly improbable event with three principal characteristics: 1) It is unpredictable 2) it carries a massive impact; and 3) we concoct an explanation that makes it appear less random, and more predictable, than it really is (that is to explain random outcomes as non-random). According to the author the world is just too unpredictable. Change comes not uniformly but in unpredictable spurts. For instance in the case of the World Wide Web, the computer and the laser technology, no one could have forsaw the changes that these 3 technologies had on our world just a generation ago. Taleb argues that corporations and governments who do scenario planning are just wasting their time as it is impossible to predict how things will turn out. As human beings, we are completely unaware of the very existence of randomness and how it can drastically alter our future. In gist, all I can say after reading this thought provoking book is that I learnt one really important lesson – “to always expect the unexpected in life”.

Paul Tye ~ Central Libary

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