Black swan boarding a bus

I have no wish to comment on the recent tragedy of a few Hong Kong tourists being shot dead after they were held hostage in a bus in Manila. As in so many other incidents in life, too there are so many unknown facts that making a story or passing judgement is an ignorant and reckless thing to do. Unfortunately, not only is that exactly what media reports are so inclined to do but also the readers and viewers like to dance to the tunes set by the media and the authorities according to their own agenda.

But there is one thing I feel strongly about the case and it is that the incident is a lamentable vindication of Nassim Nicholas Taleb's observations about Black Swans.

Black Swans are rare events whose occurrence and impact tend to be ruled out, overlooked or under-estimated because such events exist outside most people's realm of knowledge and experience. Even though some of us may have taken the trouble of buying travel insurance, how many of us, when we plan or make a trip, would ever imagine that a disaster of such nature or magnitude would happen to us? Rare as it may be, however, something like this incident in Manila does happen, just like the Lebanon in Taleb's childhood, a "paradise" where the Christians and the Moslems had co-existed peacefully for nearly thirteen centuries suddenly "evaporating" because of "a few bullets and mortar shells". The conflict was to evolve into a brutal cival war which lasted over a decade and a half.

Black Swans can and do exist, whether we are ready or not.

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