Sunday, July 5, 2009

Black Swans At Dusk

Black Swans At Dusk, originally uploaded by TomRaven.

Before the discovery of Australia, people in the Old World were convinced that all swans were white, an unassailable belief as it seemed completely confirmed by empirical evidence. The sighting of the first black swan might have been an interesting surprise for a few ornithologists … but that is not where the significance of the story lies. It illustrates a severe limitation to our learning from observations or experience and the fragility of our knowledge.
One single observation or experience can invalidate a general statement derived from millennia of confirmatory sightings of millions of white swans (p xvii).

From The Black Swan - The Impact of the Highly Improbable by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, 2007

Black on flat water past the jonquil lawns
Riding, the black swan draws
A private chaos warbling in its wake,
Assuming, like a fourth dimension, splendor
That calls the child with white ideas of swans
Nearer to that green lake
Where every paradox means wonder.

Though the black swan’s arched neck is like
A question-mark on the lake,
The swan outlaws all possible questioning:
A thing in itself, like love, like submarine
Disaster, or the first sound when we wake;
And the swan-song it sings
Is the huge silence of the swan.

From The Black Swan by James Merrill (1926 - 1995)

Best Viewed Large On Black - See where this picture was taken. [?]

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