Black Swans are ‘outliers’, things totally outside and way beyond our observations. Nasim Nicholas Taleb’s popular notion of the ‘Black Swan’ captures the essence of the familiar future(s). In contrast to the Black Elephants of the Extended Present, Black Swans in the Familiar Futures are not perceptible or articulated, even by experts; they appear as ‘outliers’ and come ‘out of the blue,’ as Taleb notes, they are ‘very fragile to miscalculation, with a general severe underestimation mixed with an occasional severe overestimation’ (Taleb, 2007, p. 420).
Black Swans are fundamentally unknown unknowns; and, in contrast to Black Elephants, Black Swans can and might be positive, which is to say that their impact might illuminate previously unimagined opportunities, which is what suits them for the complex dynamics of the familiar future(s).
Indeed, it has been argued that Black Swans are responsible for some of the greatest societal changes of history. However, they can equally be negative and serve as a signal for emerging PNC or PNB. As such, dealing with Black Swans requires a higher level of analysis.