What Is A Black Swan Event?

And there’s more out there than just black swans. Here be dragons . . .

Matt J Weber 🦢
5 min readSep 1, 2021

In 2nd century Rome, there were no black swans. No one in western Europe had seen anything other than a white swan. It was just assumed black swans just didn’t exist.

And so when a Roman poet described something as “a rare bird in the lands and very much like a black swan,” he didn’t mean black swans were rare birds. He meant they were impossible.

This became a common saying and generally referred to things that just could not happen.

But then black swans actually happened.

In 1697, over a thousand years after a roman declared them impossible, Dutch explorers in Australia stumbled upon black swans. Lots of them.

This is in itself a Black Swan event.

A Black Swan event is an event so rare and unusual that its appearance takes us by complete surprise. They can be disasters like a financial crash or great scientific advancements or the discovery of a flock of black birds. Either way, they are unprecedented and unpredictable. At least until they happen.

For something to be classified a Black Swan event it has to fulfill three requirements.