Black Swans

Black swan in London by Robert Silverwood.

Some guests need to introduction.  And some guests get no introduction.  Such was the case at this morning’s RSA event in which leader of the British opposition, David Cameron played the unusual role of keynote listener to author Nassim Taleb.  This unexpected role will not have fazed our speaker, given that he is a master of all things unexpected.

Nassim was in town to recap the main theme of his book, The Black Swan, which is all about uncertainty.  What became increasingly clear was that whilst two and a half years ago, his message was shocking, in the wake of the financial crisis, it makes worryingly good sense. 

I’m interested in how completely unexpected things can appear from out of the blue and have massive consequences, however this isn’t just about doom and gloom.   I hope I’m not being too much of a Pollyanna when I say that at least some of these things could be positive.  Scientific breakthroughs, unexpected alliances between countries or organisations.  As David listened and Nassim spoke, I began to wonder what their advice would be on how to increase the probability of massive and unpredictable things happening, with fantastic consequences.  To turn a black swan on its head.

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