Europeans once thought all swans were white. “White” was part of how they defined “swan.” Then black swans were discovered, and the definition changed forever.
Almost everything in social life is produced by rare but consequential shocks and jumps. All the while, almost everything studied about social life focuses on the “normal,” particularly with “bell curve” methods of inference that tell you close to nothing.
Why? Because the bell curve ignores large deviations, cannot handle them, and yet makes us confident that we have tamed uncertainty.
(The Great Intellectual Fraud)
Living on our planet, today, requiers a lot more imagination that we are made to have. We lack imagination and repress it in others. We like stories, we like to summarize, and we like to simplify, to reduce the dimension of matters. The fallacy is associated with our vulnerability to over-interpretation and our predilection for compact stories over raw truths. We, members of the human variety of primates, have a hunger for rules because we need to reduce the dimension of matters so they can get into our heads. Or, rather sadly, so we can squeeze them into our heads. Unlike art, the purpose of science is to get to the truth, and not to give you a feeling of organisation, or make you feel better. Unfortunately, we tend to use knowledge as therapy. We live in the antechamber of hope, having the illusion of control over the world and reality. We focus on preselected segments of the seen and generalize it to be the unseen, having the error of confirmation. As much as it is ingrained in our habits and conventional wisdom, confirmation can be a dangerous error.
All this philosophy of induction, all these problems about knowledge, all these wild opportunites and scary possible losses, falls in front of the following metaphysical consideration. We are quick to forget that just being alive is an extraordinary piece of good luck, a remote event, and a chance occurrence of monstrous proportions. Imagine a speck of dust next to a planet a billion times the size of the earth. The speck of dust represents the odds in favor your being born. The huge planet would be the odds against it. So, stop sweating the small stuff! Don’t be like the ingrate who got a castle as a present, and worried about the mildew in the bathroom, stop looking the gift horse in the mouth!
Remember: you are not a horse you are a black swan, a very rare and remarkable event!
Nobody knows anything!
(A small analysis of Nassim Nicholas Taleb -The Black Swan)