Internet Black Swans

I always thought that the more you know, the more you can predict. That is why I do research, make models and teach students about lessons learned. This is my work, my life, my contribution to humanity.

However, Nassim Nicholas Taleb in his interesting book “The Black Swan” states that prediction is a fairy tale, at least for manmade concepts that do not obey the laws of nature. Wealth, popularity, stockmarkets for instance are no physical things. They are just numbers and there are no physical laws that control them and make them predictable. It is all based on luck. The lucky one gets all. There is no why, there is no mean outcome, no bellcurve to rely on, no grand theory. There are no lessons to be learned from historical recordings, besides the fact that unexpected events (the “Black Swans” as Taleb calls them) can occur. With the same effort, the same preconditions, the same behavior, you can either be extremely successful or fail dramatically. No one can predict a crisis in the financial world or can guarantee financial success…

Is the future of the Internet predictable? I think Taleb would say NO, although he is not a expert in this field (he actually is an experienced stockmarket trader). It is manmade! I already used to send email messages over Internet (or was it still called Arpanet?) somewhere in the1980ties. Although being a young researcher then, with an open mind and lots of fantasy I had no idea of the impact it would have now on our daily live. We use Google, Twitter, and Blogs although we never heard of these things a couple of years ago. Innovative applications have appeared and will show up suddenly, without warning, unpredicted. I have no idea where it will lead us. Taleb learned me not to try to limit my view of the future…but to expect the unexpected.

Be warned: Internet Black Swans ahead!

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Research

If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?

Albert Einstein

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Eric Dortmans

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