Life and Times of the Thanksgiving Turkey: He Never Saw It Coming
November 22nd, 2012
The Black Swan Theory is used by Nassim Nicholas Taleb to explain the existence and occurrence of high-impact, hard-to-predict, and rare events that are beyond the realm of normal expectations. One example often put forth by Taleb is the life and times of the Thanksgiving Turkey.
The turkey spends the majority of its life enjoying daily feedings from a caring farmer. Weeks go by, and it’s the same thing day-in-day-out for the Turkey. Free food. Open range grazing. Good times all around.
The thinking turkey may even surmise that the farmer has a vested interest in keeping the turkey alive. For the turkey, it is a symbiotic relationship. “The farmer feeds me and keeps me happy, and I keep the farmer happy,” says the turkey. “The farmer needs me, otherwise, why would he be taking care of me?”
This goes on for a 1,000 days.
Then, two days before Thanksgiving on Day 1,001, the farmer shows up again.
But this time he doesn’t come bearing food, but rather, he’s wielding an ax.
This is a black swan event — for the turkey.