Topic: "Seen Any Blue Swans?"(3)
Willem de Vlamingh (by the way, did Frodo mention that you should now be taking notes for the test at the end of this lesson?) arrived in Australia from Holland in 1697, and promptly confronted something that the entire civilized world believed did not exist; he encountered black swans. His discovery forced Europeans to accept the fact that an obvious and accepted belief, i.e. that all swans are white, might actually prove to be incorrect. This realization probably did not sit well with several established religious groups at the time.
Frodo brings this up because of a new book, appropriately named "The Black Swan," and subtitled "The Impact of the Highly Improbable," written by Dr. Nassim Nicholas Taleb. Dr. Taleb's theorem is that unlikely events seem impossible when they lie in the unknown or in the future, however, after they occur, they become a part of our readily accepted reality. Taleb argues that our lives are the cumulative effect of a number of significant shocks that have taken place in our environment that were far different from what was planned or expected. He uses the theory to argue that America's place in the global economy is strengthened by the fact that we have not learned to fear failure. Rather, as entrepreneurs our collective successes have more to do with what is unplanned as opposed to what is predictable.
Frodo was struck by one of Taleb's examples, which he dubbed the "Harry Potter Phenomenon." He merely pointed out that the authoress was, when she wrote her first book, a mother on welfare. The unpredictable success of her product obviously changed her life, and was, therefore, a "Black Swan." Other examples used by Dr. Taleb were the internal combustion engine; the Cuban Revolution; the personal computer; the 1990's Internet stock bubble; and World War II. Each of these events became a "Black Swan" because of the unintended consequences which followed.
Frodo would like to introduce another "Black Swan." George W. Bush may be the penultimate unintended consequence in the modern world. For some, his very existence is evidence of a night of passion gone awry. Others look upon him as a mannequin, dressed and posing, mindlessly, without an unscripted moment and, therefore, a figurehead. Still others, it seems, regard him as a bulwark against uncontrolled and uncontrollable government. Frodo argues that all have been confounded by what has actually taken place. Frodo also hopes that the entrepreneurial spirit of the American people has not been diminished by the most colossal of all our failures.
Frodo will be doing his best Charles Kuralt impersonation for the next several days dear reader. If the opportunity avails itself, and you happen across a weary traveler sipping an RC and eating a "Moon Pie" in front of an old country store, stop and sit a spell, you might meet Frodo up close and personal. Talk about a "black Swan," you stop to fill the tank and you come face-to-face with a Hobbit.
"Now, take out a piece of paper and number from one to ten. . ."