Black Swan redux

Back in August I contributed a post on the book The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb and his idea that there can be totally unexpected events or discoveries that have a major impact on beliefs and theories of the world that require post-hoc revisions to accumulated wisdom.
Well, it seems my post has become part of a web of unexpected discoveries that reaches as far as Australia’s Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd. I was just contacted by David Hirsch, a Sydney barrister, who recently came across my web post and told me the following story.


On a flight from Sydney to San Francisco in July David was lent Taleb’s book by a fellow passenger (a Romanian/Canadian actuarial student) in exchange for a book on economics that she was interested in. David is on the Executive of the Sydney Peace Foundation, which last week awarded the Sydney Peace Prize to Aboriginal leader Patrick Dodson for his ‘courageous advocacy of the human rights of Indigenous people, for distinguished leadership of the reconciliation movement and for a lifetime of commitment to peace with justice, through dialogue and many other expressions on non violence’.
David had a chance to lunch with Pat Dodson in early November, and they spoke about The Black Swan, with David explaining the importance of the improbable, the narrative fallacy etc. Pat Dodson was very taken by it.
At the black tie dinner reception on 6th November at Sydney University where Pat Dodson was given the award, he spoke to the assembled, including Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, about a conversation he had about the importance of improbability. As David wrote to me last week: ‘so in a very circuitous way The Black Swan was getting aired at a public function having wended its way through me in a journey that, like your post on the net, began with a chance encounter with an airport book’.
It’s all just a little bit spooky.

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