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Life in Extremistan

According to Nassim Nicholas Taleb, "black swans"—totally unforeseeable events like 9/11—are on the rise. Is it possible to improve our predictions, or should we simply accept what we don't know?

By Tom Nuttall   August 2007

The Black Swan, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb (Allen Lane, £20) The Political Punter: How to make money betting on politics, by Mike Smithson (Harriman House, £12.99)

The black swan was the example used by John Stuart Mill to illustrate the problem of induction in the philosophy of science, which states that no amount of empirical evidence for a proposition can ever prove conclusively that it is true. For hundreds of years, zoologists assumed that all swans were white, because they had never seen any evidence to the contrary. But then with the discovery of Australia came the sighting of a…

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