Monday, November 05, 2012

BLACK SWAN

The black swan theory or theory of black swan events is a metaphor that describes an event that is a surprise (to the observer), has a major effect, and after the fact is often inappropriately rationalized with the benefit of hindsight.

We spent a lot of time at a dinner party Saturday night discussing this theory.

(Menu was butternut squash soup, stuffed chicken breasts with cherry glaze, Israeli couscous, cucumber, leek and pear salad with granny apple dressing, fruit tart)

Is Hurricane Sandy a black swan, an October surprise or just a horrible storm? Of course, global warming comes into play.

What event would you categorize as a black swan? The classic example is 9/11.

17 comments:

Olivia V. Ambrogio said...

I'd call Sandy a surprise--in a lot of her specifics--but would say that similar *kinds* of effects have been projected by climate-change researchers for quite some time, and the kinds of prevention measures that should be put in place are not new or shocking.

I'd call any activities of the stock market "black swan" events--econ experts have such fun explaining with great confidence why of *course* X or Y happened--after the fact--but can't predict a damn thing.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Is the crash of 2008 a black swan?

Rob Kitchin said...

If Sandy is a black swan, then what was Kattrina - a cygnet? Or Irene? Black swans come from the theory of falsification - the exception that disproves the accepted theory. Sandy didn't do that; it was a major hurricane coming in off the Atlantic that coincided with a high tide and an arctic air mass. A standard deviation or two off the norm, but no more than a large residual.

Rob Kitchin said...

2008 crash was not a black swan. There are several other precedents - the Great Depression being the obvious one; an earlier global financial crash. That it was not predicted in the mainstream media beforehand does not make it a black swan. If there had never been a major financial crash before, then it would be one.

pattinase (abbott) said...

What about Sandy's affect on the US elections however? Can that be the black swan even if the hurricane is not?
Rob-if you return, what event would you categorize as a black swan? Even the crash in 29 followed earlier if less severe ones.

Cap'n Bob said...

Pearl Harbor?

Erik Donald France said...

Yom Kippur War, opening gambit.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I say yes for both.

Jerry House said...

2000 election being decided by the Supreme Court.

pattinase (abbott) said...

God, please not again.

Deb said...

Jerry beat me to the election of 2000. I would say the (to me) inexplicable success of the Honey Boo Boo show is a black swan. My hindsight rationalization is that there are more stupid people than I had thought.

John said...

Deb's answer had me laughing out loud!

The O. J. Simpson trial verdist and aftermath?

John said...

Uh... that should be VERDICT.

George said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
pattinase (abbott) said...

Have to see Honey Boo Boo but from what I've heard. The O.J. trial, yet.
The hostage crisis of 1979; the Cuban Missille Crisis. Maybe the black swan is pretty common.

Deb said...

I suspect that's NOT George Kelley. Don't feed the trolls people!

Rob Kitchin said...

Patti. Sorry just getting back now. My example would be Hiroshima. It falsified the accepted idea that an entire city could not be razed to the ground by a single, relatively small bomb. It was an exception that broke the rule. There was no precedent and was a complete game-changer.