When is a Black Swan Not a Black Swan?

By: Geary Sikich

Introduction

There seem to be a lot of sightings of ‘black swans’ lately. Should we be concerned or are we wishfully thinking, caught up in media hype; or are we misinterpreting what a black swan event really is? The term black swan has become a popular buzzword for many; including, contingency planners, risk managers and consultants. However, are there really that many occurrences that qualify to meet the requirement of being termed a black swan or are we just caught up in the popularity of the moment?

The definition of a black swan according to Nassim Taleb, author of the book ‘The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable’ is:

A black swan is a highly improbable event with three principal characteristics: it is unpredictable; it carries a massive impact; and, after the fact, we concoct an explanation that makes it appear less random, and more predictable, than it was.

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