(originally written Nov 24, 2011. Part of Great Upload of 2013.)
It came to my attention that Naseem Nicholas Taleb, who authored The Black Swan (surprisingly, not about a ballet dancer, but about financial crises) discussed other avians in his book, among them the Thanksgiving turkey. Per the Wikipedia page, he seems to’ve co-opted the idea from a turkey anecdote by philosopher Bertrand Russell, whose atheism doubtless led antagonists to brand him cuckoo. ;)
The abrupt change in the turkey’s situation is part of an argument that it’s ridiculous to project present trends very far into the future, because, well, things change. Hockey-wise, the Gretzky-led Edmonton Oilers of the 1980’s inspired a high-scoring decade for the NHL. This was followed by a low-scoring decade inflicted on fans by the New Jersey Devils’ success with the neutral-zone trap in 1994-1995. (As per the viral video most of you’ve doubtless seen, the Tampa Bay Lightning are going retro with their 1-3-1 system. Lightning GM Steve Yzerman was part of the Red Wings team the Devils upset in the 1995 Stanley Cup Finals.)
Taleb was mocking the fact that long-term projections are the way stock analysts arrive at “price targets” for the companies they follow: someone with Excel skills will assume Gigacorp earnings will steadily rise by 5% per year for the next fifteen years, and offset that with a time-value-of-money calculation, to determine what the present value of future profits will be. (The way the math works, the present value of far-in-the-future profits converges to nearly zero.)
It’s more likely that some Big Change(s) will upend those assumptions, in unexpected ways.
As a personal example, back in high school, I volunteered at an old folks’ home in Vancouver’s Yaletown district — this was a time when Yaletown was a labyrinth of decaying warehouses. Now, it’s a posh-spot for yuppies with puppies. Oh, if I had money back then… well, realistically, I’d’ve probably blown it on hockey cards, instead of savvily buying real estate… ;)
One of the folks I visited regularly was an old, baritone radio announcer. One day he explained that when he was starting out in the industry, it was desirable to have a deep, Brian Mulroney-esque voice. Perhaps this is because we tend to associate deep voices with authority. The chanting of Gregorian monks or Tibetan throat-singers probably wouldn’t have the same effect if they were all singing falsetto, eh? ;)
At some point, things suddenly changed, because manufacturers put radios in cars. Suddenly you couldn’t hear the baritone radio announcers; they got lost in the engine noise! This led to the dominance of high-pitched radio personalities such as Casey Casum, whose voices occupied a different part of the audio spectrum. (Casum is best known in my generation as the voice of “Shaggy” on Scooby-Doo.) It was like an evolutionary response — a Darwinian selection — to the new automotive environment!
As a guy approaching $500 in iTunes music purchases, I wonder if in twenty years, deep baritones will be back in vogue because our collective hearing in the popular music audio spectrum, will be shot. ;)
As a further aside, someone projecting future trends might investigate the music preferred by elderly musicians. Being a violinist in my youth means my left ear has below-average hearing in the treble range (which the violin plays): it spent many an hour, mere millimeters from the locus of the noise generation!