The Black Swan

My thinking has lately been a little inspired by The Black Swan, by Nicholas Taleb (author of another of my favourite books, Fooled by Randomness). The basic idea behind the Black Swan is that we cannot ignore improbable events (especially high-impact events), and that absence of proof does not mean proof of absence — which essentially means that having no proof of having seen a red sky doesn’t mean the sky can’t turn red or that sort of thing.

And so I was in the car with the fiancée, discussing whether or not we should go ahead to apply to be part of the balloting exercise for the next build-to-order HDB flats in Punggol. I’m not sure exactly what led to what, but eventually it came to a point where I mentioned that we might not end up together, for whatever reason (I think I used it as an example of how unpredictable life was, referring to how she was worried that we may never get another build-to-order flat anywhere near an MRT station).

Needless to say, she was upset by that remark and asked me to explain myself. I had used an example of a Black Swan (our breaking up), and needed yet another to save her from manslaughter charges. So I pulled one out of my hat and said that, for example, either one of us may die, and thus we would technically “not be together”. Not comforted one bit by my answer, and in fact a little peeved that I mentioned my early demise yet again (I have a habit of talking about how fragile my life — and in fact life in general — is), I drove on in silence for a while before jumping onto another topic, and very quickly the unhappiness hanging in the air, unlike me, departed.

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