Susan Boyle has quite rightly been described as an ugly duckling who became a black swan.
Boyle is a 48-year-old unemployed British woman who has stunned the world ever since she appeared on 11 April on British television in a talent contest. Her performance there has been viewed a hundred million times on the Internet in about two weeks, a testimony to the viral power of the World Wide Web.
Boyle is also an interesting example of what trader-cum- philosopher Nassim Nicholas Taleb calls a black swan, which is a low probability event that has a high impact. We can never predict black swans, though the world is changed by little else.
Taleb’s insight has often been illustrated by the use of negative examples, from the 9/11 attacks in New York to the blow-up of the global credit market in August 2007.
But there are also positive black swans, as Taleb is careful to remind his readers. Google is one example. Boyle could be another example of a rare, but powerful, event that rattles the world.