The Black Swan: The Impact Of The Highly Improbable - Nassim Nicholas Taleb

• • • •

On the eve of the 2006 hurricane season, the National Hurricane Center forecast a “hyperactive” summer and fall, with eight to 10 Atlantic cyclones; instead there were five, smack on the 20th-century average. At the beginning of 2006, The Wall Street Journal forecast a bad year for stocks; the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 16 percent that year. Disturbingly, The Journal has forecast a good year for 2007.)

The British government recently said climate change could reduce global G.D.P. by 13.8 percent in the first year of the 23rd century. Not by 13.7 percent, not by 13.9 percent — by 13.8 percent. In response to an astronomer’s discovery, The New York Times in 2004 declared that the universe might have a “peaceful end” in “tens of billions of years,” but cautioned that it could not rule out the cosmos’s exploding in a few billion years. Writing of the same discovery, The Washington Post predicted that the demise of the cosmos would require 30 billion years, adding this vital caveat: “It remains impossible to predict the fate of the universe with certainty.” Oh, so we can’t be certain what will happen 30 billion years from now!

Read more: Possibly Maybe: Gregg Easterbrook | The New York Times

Additional reading: Stuck in Mediocristan: Giles Foden | The Guardian