From Hilbert Space to Dilbert Space


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Understanding something that has bothered me for decades
saturn
gmcdavid

I have been reading The Black Swan. From the Amazon blurb:

A black swan is a highly improbable event with three principal characteristics: It is unpredictable; it carries a massive impact; and, after the fact, we concoct an explanation that makes it appear less random, and more predictable, than it was. The astonishing success of Google was a black swan; so was 9/11. For Nassim Nicholas Taleb, black swans underlie almost everything about our world, from the rise of religions to events in our own personal lives.

There are all sorts of fascinating things in this book. Here is one:

I have been a space buff and science fiction fan for about 1/2 century. 35-40 years ago my friends and I were all expecting manned flights to Mars, a permanent Moon base, and substantial space colonies in our lifetime. It is not going to happen. We have all been wondering "What went wrong?" From the The Black Swan.

Not only have forecasters generally failed dismally to foresee the drastic changes brought about by unpredictable discoveries, but incremental change has turned out to be generally slower than forecasters expected.

All of these advances in space travel we were dreaming of are "incremental change."

we are not spending long weekends in space stations as was universally predicted three decades ago. In an example of corporate arrogance, after the first moon landing the now-defunct airline Pan Am took advance bookings for round-trips between earth and the moon. Nice prediction, except that the company failed to foresee that it would be out of business not long after.

I remember friends making those bookings, in downtown Chicago, on Wabash near Madison.


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Black Swans and space

I am trying to read the Black Swan book, but Taleb suffers from a problem: he's a long winded bastard who thinks everything about his own life is worth sharing. His first book was much shorter and to the point. As far as space travel goes, Taleb is sort of correct, but he also misses the some of the historical context and doesn't know much about space flight. Back in the 60's we had a manned space program and the 2001 came out and we thought that our current events were going to evolve into that future. We didn't realize that the entire NASA program was stove-piped with the single goal of getting a man on the moon ahead of the Russians, a goal created by the US propaganda machine.
Anyway, my take on what happened is that back then we thought people would be going into space because that is how exploration worked and that there was something unique that only people could do there. Having worked in the space program, the payoff for unmanned exploration has been many times greater than for manned exploration. The space station is a very expensive white elephant that doesn't produce nearly the interest or excitement that has come out of Galileo, Cassini or the Mars landers.

conceptions of black swans

(Anonymous)
Tchaikovsky has to have gotten it from SOMEWHERE: the Black Swan is the mirror and (simultaneously) the opposite of the White Swan. In daily life the black swan is a rare anomaly that by its anomalousness highlights the norm, but that's all. I don't know where the rest of that came from.

conceptions of black swans attributed

Sorry, that was me not logged in.

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