Public Lecture: "The Black Swan" by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Past Event

05 March 2008, 1:00am

Exeter College
Turl Street, Oxford, OX1 3DP

This public lecture is the culmination of the 21st Century School's Hilary Term 2008 Seminar Series on Risk in the 21st Century. The seminar series will bring together academics and experts to assess and inform on the kinds of challenges we face in the 21st century. The discussions will contribute to the broader agenda of addressing the need for developing new ways of thinking to understand and analyse the future.

Based on his book of the same name, Nassim Nicholas Taleb's public lecture will show how we are hard-wired not to estimate risk truly. Taleb introduces the concept of the Black Swan: a highly improbable event with three principle 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.

Elegant, startling, and universal in its applications, The Black Swan is a concept that will change the way you look at the world. Black Swans underlie almost everything, from the rise of religions, to events in our own personal lives. The astonishing success of Google was a black swan; so was 9/11. And why do we always ignore the phenomenon of Black Swans until after they occur?

Taleb argues that we are too vulnerable to the impulse to simplify, narrate, and categorize and not open enough to rewarding those who can imagine the impossible. In his lecture, Taleb will explain everything we know about what we don't know, and show us how to face the world.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb is a scholar of probability, literary essayist, and veteran derivatives trader. He is known for a multidisciplinary approach to role of the high-impact rare event.

He held senior positions with major banks, focusing on the trading and risk management of complex derivatives (CSFB, UBS, BNP-Paribas, Bankers Trust-Deutsche Bank, among others) and worked independently on the floor of the Chicago exchanges. He went on his own in 1999 to specialize in protecting portfolios against extreme events.

His current and past academic affiliations are: Professor at the London Business School, Dean's Professor in the Sciences of Uncertainty at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and fellow at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences of New York University. He has an MBA from Wharton and a Phd from the University of Paris.

Taleb is, among other books and scholarly papers, the author of the "idiosyncratic" bestsellers Fooled by Randomness, and The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable. His books have more than a million copies in print and have been translated into 27 languages.