Black swan. Beautiful, isn’t it? Still, it looks kind of sinister*… A black swan is an aberration, an exception to the rule that says that swans are to be white. A black swan is an extremely rare phenomenon and as such it has come to symbolically represent events that are almost impossible to predict, yet when they occur, they leave immense destruction* and chaos in their wake*.  Some examples of black swan events:

  • The World War I
  • The US housing market collapse in 2008
  • 9/11 attacks in New York
  • Covid-19 pandemic

The term was coined* by Nassim Taleb, a finance professor who argued that people should always assume that a black swan event would come, and prepare for it as best as they can. To put it simply, we should always be prepared for the unthinkable. Easier said than done…

Take a look at a sample use of the phrase black swan:

The world economy is not prepared for black swans.

Hurricane Katrina, which ravaged the United States, was a black swan because of its unprecedented impact and destructive power. 

Black swans are important in assessing future insurance losses. The problem is how do you assess something that has never occurred before and your imagination can’t embrace* the potential magnitude* of such an event? Historical data is useless, so the traditional predictive models* can’t provide the complete picture of the future damage. So a black swan remains elusive*, impossible to predict, like an unidentified curse* hanging over our heads. A consolation*:  its occurrence is extremely unlikely*. 

Remember “Black Swan” with Natalie Portman? Watch the Black Swan (Transformation Scene) on YouTube in all of its terrible glory* :).


sinister – złowieszczy
immense destruction – olbrzymie zniszczenia
in their wake – po sobie
to coin an expression – ukuć wyrażenie, stworzyć nowe pojęcie
to embrace – objąć (tu: wyobraźnią)
a magnitude – ogrom
elusive – nieuchwytny
a curse – klątwa
unlikely – mało prawdopodobny
a glory – tu: wspaniałość

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