Monday, 19 October 2009

The Black Swan: Prologue

A Black Swan is an extraordinary and unexpected event. It can't be predicted and after it has happened people try to know its reasons. Some examples of black swans are:

- the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001;
- the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 2004;
- the success of J. K. Rowling with her Harry Potter books;
- and the Internet.

The author tell us what we are going to find in the book:

The sequence of this book follows a simple logic; it flows from what can be labeled purely literary (in subject and treatment) to what can be deemed entirely scientific (in subject, though not in treatment). Psychology will be mostly present in Part One and in the early part of Part Two; business and natural science will be dealt with mostly in the second half of Part Two and in Part Three. Part One, "Umberto Eco's Antilibrary", is mostly about how we perceive historical and current events and what distortions are present in such perception. Part Two, "We Just Can't Predict", is about our errors in dealing with the future and the unadvertised limitations of some "sciences" -and what to do about these limitations. Part Three, "Those Gray Swans Extremistan", goes deeper into the topic of extreme events, explains how the bell curve (that great intellectual fraud) is generated, and reviews the ideas in the natural and social sciences loosely lumped under the label "complexity". Part Four, "The End", will be very short.

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