Naseem Taleb in his famous book ‘Black Swan – Impact of highly unprobable’  mentions about highly improbable event called ‘Black Swan’.  Such event is characterized by –

  • It is unpredictable.
  • It has massive impact.
  • Once occured, it appear less random and more predictable.

Success of Google or 9/11 is typical ‘Black Swan’ event. Why do we understand these events late ? Taleb’s answer is anology from Famous Italian Novelist Umberto Eco.

As Taleb mentions in the book –

‘The writer Umberto Eco belongs to that small class of scholars who are encyclopedic, insightful, and nondull. He is the owner of a large personal library (containing thirty thousand books), and separates visitors into two categories: those who react with “Wow! Signore professore dottore Eco, what a library you have! How many of these books have you read?” and the others — a very small minority — who get the point that a private library is not an ego-boosting appendage but a research tool. Read books are far less valuable than unread ones. The library should contain as much of what you do not know as your financial means, mortgage rates, and the currently tight real-estate market allows you to put there. You will accumulate more knowledge and more books as you grow older, and the growing number of unread books on the shelves will look at you menacingly. Indeed, the more you know, the larger the rows of unread books. Let us call this collection of unread books an antilibrary’

So, we concentrate on things we already know and often do not notice what we do not know, thus fail to estimate probable impact on our lives from such events.

As Taleb mentions further,

‘We tend to treat our knowledge as personal property to be protected and defended. It is an ornament that allows us to rise in the pecking order. So this tendency to offend Eco’s library sensibility by focusing on the known is a human bias that extends to our mental operations. People don’t walk around with anti-résumés telling you what they have not studied or experienced (it’s the job of their competitors to do that), but it would be nice if they did. Just as we need to stand library logic on its head, we will work on standing knowledge itself on its head.’

So, essentially, we restrict our viewpoint to our so-called ‘knowledge’ , as large events continue to surprise us.

Same is true for Technology Space.

‘Anti-technologist is one who focuses on what he does not know about technology and has child-like curiosity to understand impact it continue to have on lives. He does not make big ado about what he already know , for the fact he understands that un-known is much more valuable than  known’. 

As we are humbled by numerous changes in technology space over last few decades, let us not forget that internet is still in it’s infancy (just 35 years old) and Moore’s law has still long way to go.

Ready to be surprised ?