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  • Writer's pictureNishant Mittal

15th book of 2019: The Black Swan by Nassim Taleb

In 1600s, Dutch explorers found Black Swans in Australia. Until that point, Black Swans were thought to not exist; swans were supposed to be white and this was a big deal. Since then, Black Swan became a metaphor for something extremely rare, unexpected and very significant. These days, we notice "Black Swan" being spouted off by a lot of experts in the world of Social Science, Political Science, Economics, etc. Furthermore, these experts usually give perfect explanations of such events as if they predicted them. So to sum it up, Black Swans are extremely rare and unpredictable events which change the course of history, but are later explained like they were inevitable. Market crashes of 1987, 2008, Dot com burst of 2000, Donald Trump's Election win, Pulwama Attack, etc are all examples of Black Swans.

Knowing about Black Swans educates you about two things:

1. Black Swans are unpredictable, even to the greatest experts of that particular field 2. They are responsible for the greatest leaps of human history. Regular times don't account for much value, it's these explosions which change the world (or lives) So what do we do? Should we still make long term predictions and take them seriously? Or should we place ourselves according to our sensitivities to these Black Swans? The latter sounds more logical to Taleb (and me, now).

Someone told me about his plan of working his ass off till he was 40, only to save enough for a long, blissful retirement. A year later, something unfortunate happened and he had to be on the bed for three years. This changed his "plan". I never used to go out for parties and friendly get-togethers (because I always had work), but got dragged along for one where I met someone who added 30 Lakhs to my balance sheet. Microwave got discovered because a couple of scientists setting up Radio antennas heard a noise and thought it was bird poop which needed cleansing. What's life without unplanned accidents?

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