THE BLOG
12/14/2010 01:37 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Other Black Swan

"Perhaps one day I will be lucky enough to read an attack on this book in a diatribe called The White Swan."--The Black Swan, Nassim Nicholas Taleb

My evil twin brother defines a "Black Swan" as an unpredictable, life changing event. The world, he says, is full of Black Swans -- stock market crashes, terrorists attacks, Lady Gaga. He calls himself a skeptical empiricist -- or is that an empirical skeptic? -- and refuses to admit that "White Swans" -- transformative yet utterly banal events -- vastly outnumber Black Swans.

Poppycock, says I! ("Poppycock" is another term for a White Swan.) The world is full of White Swans -- if only one knows where to look for them. To prove my point, I boldly make the following predictions; I guarantee all of them will come true within the coming year. And I do it without resorting once to those Gaussian bell curves Nassim despises so.

Sex. A politician, professional athlete, or Hollywood celebrity will be accused of having an affair with one or more inappropriate sexual partners (prostitutes, porn stars, pit bulls, etc.). After an initial period of denial, he or she will -- accompanied by a white-lipped spouse -- tearfully admit the indiscretion(s) on national TV, then enter a rehab program for alcohol, drug, or sex addiction. Six months later he or she will return to public life with a book describing in intimate detail his or her "ordeal."

Pop. A pop star will rise out of seemingly nowhere "overnight," although in fact he or she will have been laboring unnoticed in the music industry for years. He or she will go viral on the Internet with a series of carefully calibrated "provocative" videos (prostitutes, porn stars, pit bulls, etc.) that will highlight the director's chops. He or she will be worshiped as a "transgressive" god or goddess by fans, while defenders of morality/talent will denounce him or her as undermining traditional family values/traditional notions of musical ability. He or she will be forgotten within a year and replaced with a new god or goddess.

Politics. Taxes and deficits will both continue to rise, contrary to the laws of accounting. There will be dire predictions about the future of the country. "The Founding Fathers" and "our children's children" will be invoked. Commentators will identify programs other people benefit from that should be cut. Democrats will blame Republicans; Republicans will blame Democrats. Someone will have the bright idea of forming a third party to break the political deadlock. After a lot of initial sound and fury during the primaries, the third party will turn out to signify nothing (well, mostly nothing) in the general election.

Sports. An athlete will break a local, national, or world record, then be accused of using performance enhancing drugs, betting on the sporting event, or being of a different gender than he or she claims. After a Congressional investigation, he or she will follow the Sex pattern -- initial period of denial, tearful televised confession, etc. -- predicted above.

Religion. A priest, a rabbi, and an imam walk into a bar -- no, just kidding. A priest, rabbi, or imam will be accused of pedophilia, terrorism, or black-market organ dealing. After an FBI investigation, he or she will follow the Sex pattern -- initial period of denial, tearful televised confession, etc. -- predicted above.

Extra bonus Pop prediction. N years after being forgotten, and having hit "rock bottom" (becoming a prostitute, porn star, pit bull, etc.), the former transgressive god/goddess will be rediscovered. After a Behind The Music investigation, he or she will follow the Sex pattern -- initial denial, tearful televised confession, etc. -- predicted above. In fact, just about everyone will eventually follow the Sex pattern predicted above; this is a corollary to Warhol's Law of Fame.

Conclusion. Finally, I predict all of these predictions will be forgotten within the coming year. The last thing anyone remembers is predictions, especially if they don't come true. I can safely make them without fear of contradiction because nobody bothers to back check. On this point, Nassim and I are -- probably -- in agreement.