The Black Swan

I am reading the new book by Nassim Nicholas Talem —The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable and finding that indeed we do think “after the fact” that in fact we knew all along what would happen.  The title illustrates the subtitle perfectly.  “Before the discovery of Australia, people in the Old World were convinced that all swans were white, an unassailable belief as it seemed completely confirmed by empirical evidence.  The sighting of the first black swan might have been an interesting surprise for a few ornithologists (and others extremely concerned with coloring of birds), but that is not where the significance of the story lies. It illustrates a severe limitation to our learning from observation or experience and the fragility of our knowledge. One single observation can invalidate a general statement derived from millennia of confirmatory sighting of millions of white swans. All you need is one single (and I am told, quite ugly) black bird.”