23.2.12

BJJ / Grappling & Martial Arts: The Black Swan Theory and how BJJ changed the world

Royce won not because size and strength, but despite lacking them.
Dr. Nassim Nicholas Taleb is a genius. In his book "The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable" which spent 36 weeks in the New York Times Best-seller List he, amongst many other things, predicted the banking and economic crisis. He warns us about shit that can suddenly come and hit us straight out of left field! He doesn't describe it quite like that, but he refers to it as a Black Swan event. To identifying a Black Swan event he gives these criteria:

1. The event is a surprise (to the observer).
2. The event has a major impact.
3. After its first recording, the event is rationalized by hindsight, as if it could have been expected (e.g., the relevant data were available but not accounted for).

I can give you many examples of Black Swan events but the best one related to grappling and MMA is the first UFC. When skinny ass Royce walked victorious out of the octagon it was 1, a suprise to all observers, 2, it had a major impact and 3. the even started a huge wave of rationalisation. That last one took a while (and in some people's minds still hasn't happened).


There are many conclusions that can be learned from such events, but what learning more and more about Black Swan events and grappling (or even life in general) has done is made me more humble and plain-out nice to people.

I have come to realise that the majority of people are not prepared for Black Swan events. They build their lives in a way that avoids surprises like the plague and rests on an (illusion of) certainty and predictability. When something happens that rocks that shaky foundation, they will spend much energy attempting to defend their old belief system. The jump to that last step of "rationalizing by hindsight, as if it could have been expected" takes a long time and may sometimes outlive the person. It's sad, but true.

I went thru events in my life that shook me and made me synical at first, but now I'm much less synical and more welcoming. BJJ helped. Buddhism helped. I love change. I understand that shit happens and that I, sometimes, won't be ready for it and I'm much more ok with it now than I once was.

I also try everyday to remind myself that when someone disagrees with the facts presented it could be because they are seeing a black swan for the first time. Their brain can not compute it or perhaps their heart is too scared to open up and embrace it.

Let's all just be nice to one another.


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Liam "The Part Time Grappler" Wandi

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2 comments:

HomeImprovementNinja said...

Taleb is a really smart guy, but I don't think it's fair to say he predicted the financial implosion. His theory is that people are really bad at predicting unlikely events (like 9/11, the earthquake in Japan, or the financial implosion) and so when someone is selling risk (insurance) on really unlikely things, he buys it. To be fair, he was probably also betting that the market would go up by an obscene amount.

Taleb wouldn't bet with you on a coin toss, but if you wanted to bet him that he couldn't throw 10 heads in a row and gave him 10,000 to 1 odds, he would take it. What do you think the odds of getting ten heads in a row are? The odds are about 1 in a 1000. Did you get that right? See my point about people being bad at predicting unlikely events.

Liam H Wandi said...

well getting a head in a coin toss has p=0.5 and getting it 10 in a row is 0.5 ot the power of 10 = 1 in 1024. the odds he COULDN'T get that are therefore 1023 in 1024 (ie 1 minus odds he could) which are pretty fucking high.

Hm. I actually lost my trail of thought here :)