Crypto Glossary

Black Swan Event

A black swan event, also known as black swan occurrences, is a metaphor for an unexpected event that has a significant impact.

What Is A Black Swan Event?

A black swan is an event that is characterized by its extreme rarity and severe impact. The term was first coined by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, a writer who is also a finance professor and former Wall Street trader. 

In his 2007 book, Taleb talks about the idea of a black swan event: an event that is impossible to predict but has catastrophic consequences. According to him, these events are extremely rare and unpredictable, which is why it is important for people to always expect their possibilities and plan accordingly.

A black swan, according to Taleb, is an event that is so uncommon that even the probability of its occurrence is unknown. There are three major components of the incident:

  1. When it does happen, it has disastrous consequences.
  1. It can be explained with hindsight only. 
  1. Observers are keen to explain it after its occurrence and speculate as to how it could have been predicted before it happened.

The Black Swan Theory, also known as the Theory of Black Swan Events, can be linked directly to a Latin phrase used by the Roman poet Juvenal in the 2nd century, when he characterized something as a "black swan event" as “in terris nigroque simillima cygno rara avis”

This Latin phrase means "an unusual bird in the lands that looks a lot like a black swan." It was formerly assumed that black swans did not exist when this proverb was coined.

A black swan occurrence in the financial (& cryptocurrency) markets is very unfavorable, resulting in broad devastation and famously unpredictable consequences.

The Global Financial Crisis of 2008, which was caused by the unexpected, catastrophic fall of what had formerly been a flourishing property market, is the most famous example of a black swan occurrence in the world of finance.

Lenders in the United States had drastically loosened their requirements for eligibility for mortgages, mostly as a consequence of the federal government's pressure. People with bad or no credit were accepted for mortgages on properties that were, to put it bluntly, well above their financial means.

Subprime mortgages soon grew into a large, bloated bubble that was about to explode. Lending behemoths, like Lehman Brothers, began to crumble and fail as payment dates passed and mortgages began to default in droves.

The US government was compelled to authorize the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) — a roughly $1 trillion program aimed at bailing out big banks and restoring liquidity in the economy. To avoid a repeat of the 2008 crisis, governments throughout the globe tightened laws for financial institutions, making it more difficult for them to take on certain types of (and amounts of) debt.

At present, the world is experiencing and recovering from one of the most spectacular examples of a black swan occurrence. The new coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, satisfies all of Taleb's requirements for this event. The pandemic struck without warning, and it rapidly became clear that no country was equipped to cope with it. Every day, we learned (still learning) a bit more about the worldwide pandemic's devastating impacts, which include record-breaking unemployment rates, stock market crashes, ever-increasing death tolls, and so on.

No one knows when a black swan event occurs, just as many people can’t predict seeing a black swan amongst a flock of white ones.

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