I had recently heard another talk by Taleb on Econtalk, which had more of an economic spin. This talk was equally entertaining, with a slightly different orientation.
Dispatches from Extremistan
A “black swan,” Taleb explained, is an event which is 1) Hard to predict; 2) Highly consequential; 3) Wrongly retro-predicted. We pretend we know why the big event happened, and so entrench our inability to deal with the next world-changing improbable event.
Examples: Viagra, 9/11, Harry Potter, First World War, Beatles, the PC, Google, and the rise of any successful religion. History is dominated by sudden, lasting changes wrought by deeply unexpected events.
Part of the problem is that we ignore the “silent evidence” of the nonobserved and nonobservable. We compute probability from the success of survivors. No one writes or reads a book titled “How I Lost a Million Dollars.” Another problem is that we revise our own predictions and intentions unconsciously to match what actually happens. We disguise having been wrong by pretending we were right. This is “confirmation bias.”There are TWO kinds of randomness, two realms in which events happen…
Mediocristan is dominated by the average [….]
Extremistan is dominated by extremes. [….]