Jun 11, 2010

The Black Swan

I've just learned of a book, published in 2007, that tries to explain and put into context some of the strange events of the last few years. It does a good job of explaining, if not the reason then at least the human reaction to events like the financial melt down and the recent oil spill in the Gulf.

The title of the book is "The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable."

A bit of explanation - Black swans were discovered in Australia. Before that, any reasonable person could assume the all-swans-are-white theory was unassailable. But the sight of just one black swan detonated that theory. Every theory we have about the human world and about the future is vulnerable to the black swan, the unexpected event.

As human beings, Nassim Taleb thinks we are over burdened with the desire to 'understand' things. We are also willing to take as little information as is necessary to support an opinion that fits within our narrow framework of understanding. Confused? Consider the idea of 'Experts'.

Experts in every field tell us what just happened and why it happened. They also try to give us a good feeling about knowing the implications and future outcomes of the event. The trouble with experts (and the media that relies on them) is that they are very good at telling you about 'black swan' events after they happen but very bad at predicting them. To the human mind it just does not matter; we need to know. We need to put this strange, improbable event in a box. Explain it, label it, and put it away on a shelf.

My knowledge of this author and his writing came about accidentally when I posted a picture of a painting on Facebook and asked friends to help me title it. Given the event this painting is based on, I can't think of a better title...

The Black Swan - 16x20 acrylic on canvas

Follow this link to read more about Nassim Taleb and his writings: http://www.fooledbyrandomness.com/

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1 COMMENTS - Click here to leave YOURS!:

FunkyFolky said...

Robin, your painting is beautiful and sad :( I agree with the excerpt of the Black Swan theory. We humans and our need to categorize and simplify. Your painting would fit well with this week's Illustration Friday theme.

I am already addicted to "Work of Art." All I can say is I would be in the fetal in the corner. Watching the show has made me view all of my work thus far as CRAP. But I think that's a good thing b/c that's how we grow, right? Do you have a favorite yet?

Renee :)

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