Black swan events and the robustness of a system
Some things in life will always remain highly unpredictable, and gladly so! Otherwise, life is this dole ball game everyone seems to be able to win at if they are highly rational agents, making decisions based upon deterministic laws. However, the beauty of it, is that life always has its irrational tricks upon its sleeves to keep us sharp and agile, or not! You either stick your heels deeper in the sand, or you somehow manage to adept to unexpected circumstances and turn things around towards your benefit and that of others and minimize the negative effects.
Fundamentally, I think you can fairly say that in contemporary society many individuals, organizations and the systems they inhabit are too inert, deterministic and immobile to properly adapt to events such as those called by the name of black swans. Contemporary systems are too closed based upon methods like the law of large numbers, linear thinking, the bell curve, the deterministic scientific method et cetera and often do not represent an accurate model of the complexity of reality itself. Such methods of thinking about reality might give a good prediction about a very closed situation by which you study elements in isolation, but it does not do well on predicting the outcomes of open and complex systems by which the relationships of elements create all sorts of possible random outcomes. Following this rational, it is also fair to say that we probably know a lot about nothing at all, because it doesn’t really matter anything if you study elements in isolation when in practicality, these elements have highly complex interactions with each other, and in doing so, create all sort of possible outcomes.
That being said, the world and our societies are evolving into a more advanced and complex state, and in order to keep up with these changes we need to be able to accurately model these day to day complexities. If not, then a system isn’t robust enough to at least endure, or better yet participate in this decade of rapid change with all the coming challenges of inequality, resource depletion, political instability etc.
Black swan events are highly unpredictable, have a major impact on a society or a system and only seems to be obvious in hindsight (when it is too late). This is why systems (you can replace ‘system’ with ‘a person’ or an ‘organization’) that are predominantly closed, inert and inflexible, unable to adapt to such an event compared to a system that is more open and adaptive in nature. That being said, in a world of, you can say, exponential development and change, the adaptiveness of a system has a large impact on how robust such a system is in my view. Black swan events like disruptive technologies as the Internet itself and creations like Google and possibly cryptoeconomics fundamentally change our societies and the way we relate to each other. So it is not a question if such events will happen, but an almost certainty that it will in a world that is now hyperconnected, and more able then ever before to rapidly evolve with the help of black swans.
Cause the nature of a black swan is that it is unpredictable, you might say it doesn’t matter what you will do in order to cope with it effectively as a person or an organization. I would argue that there is something one can do in order to learn how to better deal with such a big and random event. For example simply realizing that such events exist already helps in understanding the complexity of life, and, therefore, experiencing more empowerment to observe such developments when they occur. An intelligent system has a better and deeper understanding of the complexity of life, and is, therefore, more adaptive and capable to deal with events like that of a black swan. No system is without vulnerabilities, but we can become aware that they exist and adapt accordingly to it when necessary. Sticking ones head in the ground or heels further into a broken system isn’t a best response for black swan events from my point of view. Ignorance and stubbornness will never prevail in the evolutionary game of life.
In many ways, we should be thankful of black swan events. Events like this can either be seen as an enormous threat to our known world, or as an invitation into unknown worlds to explore greater depths of understanding and wisdom.
The mysterious beauty of the black swan.
Hope it was an interesting read, more then happy to exchange thoughts about these phenomena to learn together.