Black Swans, White Swans

I have never warmed up to the use of “black swan” to signify an improbable but impactful event. The very first swan I saw was a resident at the Australian National University. It was naturally a black swan. For years I saw only black swans — there are many of them living all around Canberra. I saw my first white swan when I visited Hyde Park in London in 2005. It was a beauty but, trust me, I wasn’t at all surprised by its whiteness. The whole thing was basically a non-event: I took a photo, lingered for 5 minutes, and then moved on.

Here are a couple of photos to further show you how inappropriate the term “black swan” is in its popular usage. This first photo was taken at a hotel in Jamnagar, India. You can’t miss the black fella.

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And that wasn’t the only time I see black swans and white swans together. If you are ever in Singapore, pay a visit to the Botanical Garden where again you’ll see families of black swans and white swans co-existing in a nice historical garden.

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Perhaps the way “black swan” is misused is the only thing new in Taleb’s discourse and since the world feels a need to pay attention to people who insist they are right and everyone else is wrong, now we are all stuck with with another bad cultural reference…

 

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