What is a Black Swan event?
You might have heard the phrase before – ‘Black Swan’ event. But what is it? Here’s my opinion, and concerns…
A black swan is an event, happening, or series of things that come along unexpected. It is a surprise – an aberration – outside of regular expectations. It has severe and extreme impact.
You might reason that the risk of a Black Swan event becomes much higher as it relates to more complicated systems.
The thing is – today’s modern way of life is deeply and utterly dependent upon many, many complicated systems. Never before have so many people had a reliance on so many external (out of their control) systems. Dependencies. And never before have we been at so much risk, because of it.
You might think of it as the spokes on a wheel. When one breaks, so does the integrity of the wheel.
Here’s an example of a black swan event:
A number of years ago, the newly designed Qantas Airbus A380, the largest and most modern commercial aircraft in the world, an aircraft designed with multiple redundant control systems with the latest of modern technology – almost crashed with 459 people on board due to a ‘Black Swan’ event. A single small part within the massive complex system had catastrophically failed…
The defective part resulted in an oil leak. The leak started a fire. The fire caused an engine to explode. The explosion perforated the wing and control surfaces. Multiple hydraulic systems failed. Multiple fuel tanks were ruptured. Fortunately in this particular case there was a total of 100 years flight experience in the cockpit and they were able to land the massive jetliner. However the result could have turned out much worse…
Just think of the countless hours spent on designing that aircraft and the number of people (the best and brightest in the industry) who were involved. Yet, a single unexpected point of failure nearly brought it all down…
Our Vulnerability To The Black Swan
What parallels can we draw from this? What are our vulnerabilities to Black Swan events?
The vulnerabilities cross many areas of technology, infrastructure, supply-chain, economy, our society, our beliefs, and more.
Could a seemingly ‘small’ event be a trigger for bigger ones?
We have designed many technologies and systems which have enabled a massive societal shift. However, we are now literally entirely dependent on them for our survival. What could possibly go wrong?
The more you understand the complex world around you, and when you begin to observe world events (or those closer to home), the more you realize the risks and dangers that surround our modern way of life. Our very existence.
Just look at the extreme impacts from the black swan named ‘Covid’… Health. Supply chains. Economic. Societal. Political.
Planning & Preparedness
There’s lots to think about. A point I’m hoping to get across is to expect the unexpected. Realize that there are Black Swan events waiting around the corner which could have extreme consequences for us all. Plan for it.
But how can we plan for a black swan, if we don’t know what it’s going to be? After all, its very definition is something that’s not yet known, and/or unexpected.
In my opinion, the best we can do is the following. Become more self-reliant. Become more self-sufficient. Reduce reliance upon external systems to the extent possible. Although we all rely on others to varying degrees, the more ‘local’ we can become, the better…