[FoRK] Black Swan

Bill Stoddard bill at wstoddard.com
Thu Apr 15 14:15:49 PDT 2004

Contempt for Meatheads wrote:

> Via jrobb:
>     http://jrobb.mindplex.org/2004/04/15.html#a4564
> New Post to Global Guerrillas
>  Was 9/11 a Black Swan?  Black swan events are unpredictable outliers.   
> It is possible to mitigate the impact of future vicious black swans if  
> hindsight bias is avoided and new thinking is rewarded.
> -- 
>     http://globalguerrillas.typepad.com/globalguerrillas/2004/04/ 
> was_911_a_black.html
> Was 9/11 a Black Swan?
> Nassim Taleb, a scientist-philosopher-businessman, makes the case that  
> 9/11 was a black swan. A black swan is a unpredictable event that  
> defies prediction. An outlier. I agree. He expands:
> A vicious black swan has an additional elusive property: its very  
> unexpectedness helps create the conditions for it to occur. Had a  
> terrorist attack been a conceivable risk on Sept. 10, 2001, it would  
> likely not have happened.
> In an attempt to guard against black swans (which by definition will  
> likely never be repeated), human beings engage in what is called  
> hindsight bias. This bias is composed of the following elements:
> 1) Excessive specificity. The tendency to focus on the event specifics  
> at the cost of developing general knowledge of how to prevent future  
> disasters (ie. finger pointing).
> 2) An assumption of infinite resources. It is impossible to guard  
> against everything. Those things you guard against are less likely to  
> occur, however, most areas are still exposed.
> 3) An inability to incentivize behavior that prevents future black  
> swans. Prevention of uncertain events is almost impossible to quantify  
> in any meaningful way -- a necessary step for the establishment of  
> incentives.
> His recommendation: the government should hire creative thinkers that  
> can imagine the impossible.

To what ends, given 2) above? I can imagin all sorts of weird shit; can we defend against all of it? Nope. 
BTW, there were FBI agents who had the attack (and how to defend against it) pretty much figured out well in 
advance of 9/11. So who do the people holding the purse strings listen to? Paid shills? Your grandmother? Your 
dreams? The Ouiji board?


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