versão On-line ISSN 2411-9717
versão impressa ISSN 0038-223X
J. S. Afr. Inst. Min. Metall. vol.109 no.9 Johannesburg Set. 2009
Presidential Address: Swimming with the Black Swan
Tranter Holdings (Pty) Ltd
The idea of the 'Black Swan' comes from the fact that prior to the discovery of Australia, it was assumed by the medieval uropeans that are all swans were white, because no European at the time had ever seen a black swan, even though these did exist. The sight of one black swan in Australia by the European explorers invalidated millennia of belief that all swans were white.
However, in the context of Nassim Nicholas Taleb, a brilliant author of the book by the same name, a Black Swan is a metaphor referring to any event that is rare, has an extreme impact, and is explainable and predictable, but only in hindsight. Taleb points out to us how we confidently predict the future based upon our past experiences when in reality we have no real idea what the future will bring. While we know that Black Swans are hugely disruptive and can radically alter the course of our future, we still allow them to enter our waters and disrupt our cosy plans with unexpected and devastating impact. Even though we can see how these black fowls have affected us and the majority of those living in our surroundings, whether positively or negatively, we continue to be blinded to their existence.
Black Swans occur when there is a disjoint between what we know and what we think we know. This disjoint is fuelled by facets of our human psychology that make us overconfident in our pronouncement about the future.
Despite the fact that we cannot forecast the future accurately in a world of Black Swans, this paper tries to point the reader to the fact that if we endeavour to keep our minds and eyes wide open, we should be able to identify the generators of Black Swans, and learn to mitigate their impact. We should be able to swim with the Black Swan.
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I have not given the source of every statement or fact, however, you will appreciate that some of the facts that appear here may have previously appeared in print elsewhere.
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