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A plethora of black swans

I was under the impression that black swans were supposed to be rare. Rare enough to be effectively non-computable by standard methods. Nassim Taleb’s formulation of the Black Swan Theory is comprised of the three traits of: outlier (rarity), extreme impact and retrospective predictability (i.e., 20/20 hindsight).

I write this shortly after what might be the largest and deadliest tornado ever recorded has just devastated a large portion of Joplin, MO (see this “before and after” satellite photograph for a dramatic presentation of the damage). But I could surely have had my pick of many, many other black-swan-like-events over the past decade to choose from: the March 11, 2011, record earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan; the related but separate ongoing nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant; iTunes; Katrina; Lehman Brothers; the housing bubble burst that brought on the largest global economic collapse since the Great Depression; the earlier bursting of the Internet bubble; the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center; the first space tourist; the ongoing uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya; not one but two volcanic eruptions in Iceland within the span of a year; North Korea’s nuclear tests; major wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; the Haitian earthquake; the Dec. 26 tsunami that hit Indonesia; the Gulf of Mexico oil spill; Lady Gaga …

I’ll stop there, the point hopefully being made – black swans are practically everywhere you look. What’s a bird watcher to do?

Read the entire blog post, A Plethora of Black Swans.

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