We want to foresee the future as we stop looking at the present
During the quarantine I went back to read "the black swan" by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. A book that pops up every time we enter an economic and possibly global crisis. Here I am, rereading the first part of what turned out to be a planetary success for its ability to make us discover a new awareness about our idea of controlling the world.
Taleb describes the Black Swan as a particular event with three specific characteristics:
It is isolated. Nothing we know makes us imagine the possibility of its occurrence;
It has a huge impact;
Retrospective predictability. That is having us humans the need to make sense and an explanation, in retrospect we try to explain its existence.
It is isolated. Nothing we know makes us imagine the possibility of its occurrence; It has a huge impact; Retrospective predictability. That is having us humans the need to make sense and an explanation, in retrospect we try to explain its existence. In an increasingly complex world, these types of events are increasingly frequent.
"Yet we continue to act as if the black swan did not exist" I re-read. Or, I think, we call a (tiny) black swan a predictable event, just because we didn't see it coming or we didn't want to see it coming and consequently we didn't act as we should have.
We have learned that we cannot predict all possible events beyond our control. If so, the story would have another meaning and who knows, it would be less fascinating. We also learned that it is possible to anticipate ideas, discover or invent something that everyone else ignores. This is one of the rules of success. We want to anticipate, know, interpret with the illusion of control, but it is not possible, not as much as we would like. But when information and facts are before our eyes, we often prefer not to see them in order not to have to act. It is valid in large collective events, but also in everyday life.
It looks like a contraction, doesn't it?
"We do not want to accept the existence of the black swan, despite all those we have encountered", and at the same time we think that something perfectly predictable is impossible. And when it occurs, the easiest thing to do is to ignore the facts, the evidence, create a manager who is elsewhere. Because if the event wasn't a black swan, then why didn't I foresee it?
I reread Taleb and think how, basically, the observation of major events is no different from that of our individual, private, professional events. "We often focus on what is secondary, while the world is dominated by what is extreme." Where we put our attention is our reality. Preparing for the unpredictable can save our lives and even our happiness. Observing the details, putting them together and then moving away to look at everything from a distance, helps us to observe the situation beyond emotions. It allows us to act earlier and more effectively than to realize what happened too late. But acting means choosing, it means taking the risk of making mistakes. A risk that not everyone is willing to take.
The words in quotes are from the book "the black swan" by Nassim N. Taleb
Nassim Nicholas Taleb is a Lebanese-born American philosopher, essayist and mathematician. He dedicated his life to studying the processes of luck, uncertainty, probability and knowledge. He teaches Science of Uncertainty at the University of Massachusetts.