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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Nassim Taleb on "Black Swans"

A very interesting article today in The Daily Reckoning Australia by Nassim Taleb, on asymmetric outcomes.

As the Daily Reckoning put it on May 14th, "...the importance of any event is equal to the likelihood TIMES the consequences." Most people underestimate the impact of rare events and so their risk calculations are skewed.

They may also miscalculate the probability of such an event occurring. I believe this was a factor in the 1986 Space Shuttle disaster. As Wikipedia puts it:

...NASA's organizational culture and decision-making processes had been a key contributing factor to the accident. NASA managers had known that [the] design of the [booster rockets] contained a potentially catastrophic flaw, but they failed to address it properly. They also ignored warnings from engineers about the dangers of launching on such a cold day and had failed to adequately report these technical concerns to their superiors.

We could use this a metaphor for the economic system and its technical risks, of which some of our bears continue to warn.

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