Are Black Swan Events Becoming Increasingly Likely and Dangerous?

My answer to that is, yes, I believe that to be true.

Why? In short, because so many people, in such a short timeline segment of our existence, are increasingly or entirely reliable upon more and more external systems to keep them alive.

As systems become more complex, there’s greater opportunity for things to break down.

Black Swan Event

A Black Swan event is “an unforeseen event that may have catastrophic consequences”.

Though the definition reads “unforeseen”, I would add that some who are acutely alert may “foresee” a so called Black Swan (or a form of it) coming. But they have no voice of significance to warn or change what may be coming. So it’s unforeseen by the vast majority, though perhaps foreseen by a few.

One example might be some of the ‘preparedness-minded’ who are highly aware of the catastrophic consequences of a major grid-down event. If a Black Swan event occurred such as a catastrophic CME (coronal mass ejection) from the sun – zapping our power grid – it would not be unforeseen by them. But certainly unforeseen by all the rest. Why? Because most suffer from normalcy bias, or simply don’t know or care about the systemic threats around them. To them, it’s a Black Swan.

What’s worse, a Black Swan event that’s truly unforeseen by ANYONE. An event that we haven’t even thought of yet (including by those who think about such things!).

I recently read about a group of “global security experts” getting together to discuss this very issue.

Organizers said the following:

“The time has come to ask: are we doing the kind of hard-nosed vulnerability assessments that are necessary of our increasingly complex and fragile infrastructure systems?”

“How do we build fault-tolerant technological and human systems that can withstand or help us better recover from catastrophic failures caused by ‘black swan’ and ‘perfect storm’ events?”

“How do we do smart risk management in a world of sudden, unseeable and unforeseeable threats?”

“The panel will discuss how the world’s internet and AI-controlled systems will cope in the event of a black swan.”

“We take for granted that these technological systems will continue to function without interruption.”

World on brink of unavoidable ‘black swan’ apocalypse, security panel warns

Taking it for granted. I don’t know how many times that I have addressed this here on the blog, however it is constantly relevant. It is SO EASY to take it for granted – our modern systems that enable us to survive as we do. We figure that there’s really no risk. At least none that are significant. That’s how most people think.

But sure as I’m sitting here typing this, one day, something unforeseen is going to happen that’s going to scare the $#!& out of the masses… Or worse.

How To Be Prepared For A Black Swan Event?

How in the world do we prepare for something like that?

It’s both easy, and hard.

Easy in that it’s not difficult to start down the road of preparedness. Level 1 and Level 2 are not hard. Being prepared for weeks up to a month.

However Level 3 and beyond is where it gets challenging. This is preparedness for truly catastrophic happenings. The thing is, although seemingly unlikely, there are events that could happen – events that would require you to be prepared up to Level 3 for a reasonable chance of survival. An uncomfortable truth.

Preparedness Level 1 – 4 Series Overview

The good news is that if we’re prepared as best we can, then we will be so much better off with our chances of survival (or less pain to deal with) than most everyone else. Because most everyone else is not prepared at all.

Addressing the title of this article, “Are Black Swan events becoming increasingly likely and dangerous?” Yes, I believe though seemingly highly improbable, they actually may becoming more likely given the increasing modern technological complexities in life’s systems. And therefor more dangerous as dependence increases.

There always seems to be that one little thing that can break the big machine. I wonder what the next thing will be…

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50 Comments

  1. There are so many things that could go wrong with catastrophic results, the kinds of things we talk a lot about here:
    – Financial meltdown
    – Pandemic
    – Massive/coordinated terror attack
    – Wide spread domestic unrest leading to martial law
    – Foreign conflict leading to war or the threat of war
    – Food shortages
    – AI or other system malfunctions that take down the grid or banking or other systems and lead to chaos

    Because so many people rely on social media or corporate news for their info, most people don’t have a clue.

    We all know it wouldn’t take much to start a chain of events that could be devastating.

    1. “AI or other system malfunctions that take down the grid or banking or other systems and lead to chaos ”

      Right there…..this one issue can set the entirety of our Nations ‘connectedness’ into a tail spin. Automation and robotics…the world of AI and IT.

      The Federal government (and States) rely very heavily on cloud computing now. All financial records, biometric data (citizens and non-citizens), agency and government data, medical data, criminal records, tax/IRS data are stored by electronic means using cloud technology. The majority of our Federal information systems are using third-party cloud systems — even the Dept of Defense and DHS have gone outside of the government for these services.

      We talk of, and worry over, the JIT (just in time) delivery system. None of us mention the JIT information system. Failure with our JIT information technology (I call it JIT-IT) will shut down our Nation faster than the JIT of our needed goods.

      It wouldn’t take that much to create a man-made black swan event that would disable our financial system. Our automation is advanced enough, and connected enough that the near-instantaneous transfer-of-funds or financial-evaporation of trillions of dollars can be implemented through the convenience of cloud technology.

  2. I believe that God has a plan. It is just logic that as The Bible is full of prophecy, God knows what is/will happen. The hard part is that they are written so they are difficult to understand and there are many Theological views on what the future will be. Certainly God’s wrath is coming someday, and He can do it in all sorts of ways.

    Add to that that most people are capable of some pretty horrible acts.

  3. Ken, could not agree more. I personally feel it will be a cascading event, starting with something so small that most will not even suspect what it will lead too. It will then likely build on itself to become self fulfilling, to the point of no return.

    Could be as simple as the “news media” making a false statement that causes the markets to collapse, people panic, buying sprees start, those that do not have the means will attempt to take what they need and the slide downhill begins.

  4. I think we’ve been on the downhill slide for some time. Morality is virtually gone in the USA . Add to that the demos wild attempts to oust our President. And that is having negative effect on wall street which will push us closer to eco.collapse.I also agree with all 3 comments above. God help us.

  5. At this point I think a small thing cascading is the more likely scenario. A history tidbit if you didn’t know: World War 1 started with the murder of Archduke Ferdinand. I’m not saying murder is a little thing, but who foresaw what happened because of it?

    Now, a few years from now, I have no idea but I remember something Billy Graham wrote not too long ago. He said God would have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah if he didn’t slap America down soon. The liberal agenda allows so much depravity, and getting worse all the time, that I definitely understand the point he was making.

    1. It was Bill Graham wife who made the remarks. However, I don’t think God owes anyone an apology, nor do I think he will be apologizing to anyone.

  6. And what makes this discussion so interesting is that the very technology a black swan event might destroy makes that destruction increasingly possible.

    So Cal Gal provides a good list of possibilities.

    But what rocks me is thinking of those who dream of a devastated world, and hope for its manifestation, for whatever reason. Today, there is so much information out there re conducting cybercrime, manipulating the financial markets, and the ease of building and delivering a high altitude low yield nuclear device. Any of these is a possibility if wishful thinkers move into wish fulfillment. Open access to information and technology is a wonderful thing, with a potential serious downside. At the end of the day it may not matter if it was ISIS, Russia, or the kid two blocks over that sent Western Civilization careening into new dark ages.

    Preparation for hard times is prudent. We’ve seen what happens when a fast food restaurant runs out of a favorite menu item. Imagine that being the first drop of rain in Ken’s catastrophe stadium.

  7. Yeah, you can bet your stones on it. The next 13 months will be interesting, to say the least.
    I read an article awhile back, (sorry, i don’t retain sources, like I should)
    Power grid hacking has a more likely probability than a CME or nuclear.
    Expect more false flags.
    Our own .gov is to be feared more than our foreign ‘enemies’. Their showing has been more pronounced lately…..

    The NWO is to destroy US.

    (Not liking what you all have been posting on our Veterans, in a .gov way)

    1. Joe c,
      Our own .gov is not to be feared (we should not fear our government). If we do, then it means that we’re living in full blown Tyranny. Rather, in my view, we the people need to continually let them know that they work for us. There are many ways to do that. Unfortunately 99% of people do not do anything in that regard in-between voting dates.

      Not picking on you, But just pointing out that this site is not anti-government. Rather, I advocate for limited government. I do not fear my government. At least not as of today ;) Tomorrow? Who knows…

      1. The gov does not fear the people, only each other. If that were true we would have honest politicians. Will the clintons ever face justice? Of course not. They dont fear the people. Its an endless cycle of lies and scandals that will not change. Once elected, history has shown its nearly impossible to be removed despite the will of the republic. We all just grin and bear it.

        1. So, getting back on topic, a nasty Black Swan could affect those within the bloated behemoth called .gov as well as those outside of it. I wonder what type of catastrophic sudden (or evolving) unforeseen events we haven’t thought of yet…

          Anyway, preparing on an individual level for the unforeseen Black Swan involves a readiness level that’s somewhere above the basic level, preferably into Level 3. Though we won’t know until (if) it happens ;)

  8. Mmmm
    I must be on a different channel….
    Seems to me the Demo/Socialist are having a hay day.
    Are they not the ones to fear?
    Are they not part of the .gov?
    Alphabet groups that cover, plant, hide truths, So called Representatives (both Dems/Reps) that, ‘ Stand for the People, Us’, would want to rather shut up a sitting Pres, than to have dirt on them exposed?
    I have no faith in those that represent me.

    1. Joe c,
      Your previous comment threw everyone within .gov into the category that you said we need to fear.

      You’re changing the argument by saying “Seems to me the Demo/Socialist are having a hay day. Are they not the ones to fear? Are they not part of the .gov?” They are indeed part of .gov, though they do not make up all of it. That’s the point I am making.

      Again, just pointing out that this is not a anti-.gov site. There are plenty of those out there, but this is not one of them. I am more of a Constitutionalist Patriot Libertarian-minded freedom loving individual who recognizes the need for limited government. No more.

      I just wanted to point that out for the benefit of anyone else who may infer, or any alphabet agency who may get the wrong idea.

      1. Yep
        You be right. We are not anti-government.
        CIA, FBI, CDC, FDA, DHS, TSA, etc
        Who the heck else would wanna throw in a black swan?
        Ohh, maybe Soros?

        I’m a fool, excuse my stupidity.
        I bow my head in anger.
        Pro limited government?
        And how do you establish that???

        1. Joe c,
          Black Swan events are not necessarily instigated by nefarious human intent. Or in your mindset, by .gov (although not saying that it’s not possible). A Black Swan could be “anything”. Natural or otherwise. Point being, unforeseen and leading to catastrophic results.

          Though it’s off-topic, you asked “Pro limited government?”
          Answer: Yes. As it was framed in the Constitution of this Republic. I’m not an anarchist.

          You asked, “how do you establish that???” (regarding Limited government)
          Answer: By adhering to the Constitution and its constraints on government. No more, no less. Though it certainly is way beyond those originally intended constraints… But I digress.

        2. Joe c:
          We’re on the same page, no need to degrade.

          Open convention is a positive step.

          The old man has some good points….

          Let’s keep a good conversation going ok?

          PS: wait till you read my “rant” tomorrow LOLOL

          1. NRP
            Lol
            I know I get a little irrational at times.
            Looking forward to your real keyboard response.

            Ken,
            Know that I’m
            Just one POed Individual….most times
            (POI)
            Nothing personal

          2. Joe c

            POI . . . hmmmm?
            Might not be the acronym you’re looking for.

          3. Kula
            Thanks for the invite of pig and cabbage. It was delicious. Let me correct your sentence. “I’m having POI over for dinner, kalua pig and cabbage.
            Hah

            Anony Mee
            I’m definitely not a Person Of anybody’s Interest.

            Joe (POI)

      2. Perhaps we fear what our Gov. might soon become and THAT Gov. we would definitely fear. A Black Swan event could entice the masses to give up even more rights and freedoms for the promise of additional security and in the wrong hands we would have much to be fearful of…IMHO

  9. Love this Article:
    Tomorrow when I get to a real keyboard I’ll write my dissertation.
    Who was it that said “there is nothing to fear but fear itself”?

  10. Since most of the normalcy-bias sheeple out there are oblivious or in denial, I can only offer this suggestion: Whatever level your preps are at, keep them to yourselves. DO NOT discuss what you have and what you are prepared for. You will rue the day that you do.

  11. It’s interesting to see blind spots, either in individuals or governments. Governments don’t see the systems they rely on as being vulnerable, and neither do individuals. The grocery stores will always be there, say the people. The internet will always be there, says the .gov. Gas will always be there, say the people. Tax revenues will always be there, says the .gov. It’s where the two dovetail and neither acknowledges the risk that we’ll have our real vulnerabilities–things like the electric grid, nuclear power, the internet. Water. A stable economy. The currency status of the dollar.

  12. I do not believe that these “Black Swan Events” are any more likely or more severe… Let alone more frequent. I believe our resiliency and our ability to cope until we can adapt has changed.

    We rely more on systems to have tenacity as opposed to individuals.

    We might be defining it differently though. I would define it as an unforeseen calamity that appeared obvious in hindsight.

    I think you might be defining sheeple. Or Idiocracy. I agree there are more of both.

    1. Better wording of the title may have been “Is the Risk of Black Swan Events Becoming Increasingly Likely and Dangerous”. My intent was not to imply that we are presently experiencing an unforeseen event or events (though we have in the past, throughout history).

      However one wonders if systemic risks to sustaining today’s modern civilization have increased, given our dependence upon technology as a lifeblood to our survival. My instinct tells me, yes. But it’s okay that you have a different opinion. I would be curious to hear your reasoning though.

      1. I agree, we are definitely more dependent on technology. I think now that technology is so reliable we have less patience when it fails. And since the past has proven reliable performance we begin to depend on them and are no longer a “nice to have” or a “convenience”.

        So a short answer is that I think we are better than ever at hedging against these Black Swan Events but I believe our ability to tolerate/endure/cope with the discomfort of them coming out fairly unscathed has been hobbled by dependence on reliable technology. This is because humans are complacent and lazy (and awful).

        I also believe that as a side effect of this we have unknowingly bred curiosity out of people. When people don’t know how things work, what it takes to fix them, or how long they will go without they get scared. People don’t like to feel helpless and at the mercy of others.

        I believe through trial and error we have built fairly robust systems including hedging against intentional disruption. I believe it is more due to reputation management than because “it is the right thing to do”. This is because a poor reputation is very costly.

        I have a few examples that concern me about dependence on technology and lack of knowledge. I am trying to make it concise which is something I’m not good at and I have hundreds of examples.

        You don’t need to know how a computer works because they rarely break and if they do instead of being $2500 25 years ago they are $450 today. Or a spread adjusted for inflation of closer to $4000 difference. They don’t get upgraded. The hardware is so advanced that you don’t need to know “tricks” to make code run faster or your SDK/compiler does it for you without your knowledge anyway.

        Machinery. Today we use machines to build machines that build machines. Most people today don’t know how to build the machine that built the machine. Let alone know how to build from scratch. Most modern machine shops take an electronic drawing and import it into a machine and magically that machine spits out a part. Most designers never touch their product and very few even know how the whole thing works together. So chances are across an entire widget someone might only know how a tiny little percentage of what makes it successful.

        A modern automotive service technician (a long way of saying mechanic) largely depends on plugging a computer into the CAN bus (ODBII port) to tell what is wrong with a car. This is way more efficient than the old ways of listening to stupid crap the owner says and then trying to figure out the complaint and problem from there. However, if for example the computer can’t tell them why there is a misfire on cylinder #whatever they have no idea what to do. The car can come in and you can hear and feel the stumble but now what? Old time mechanic would use a stethoscope and thermometer to find the cylinder then go down the road of discerning if it is an ignition misfire and then further diagnose. A modern mechanic would either release the car to the customer saying “unable to duplicate problem” or read probable causes and then just do parts replacement hoping it fixes it. AKA parts changer.

        1. I like your examples.

          I think there was an old Star Trek episode which showed alien beings on some planet where they had no idea how anything worked behind the scenes. Everything around them was entirely automated and “machines” took care of everything for them. Except the machine/computer/technology/AI-systems had become “self aware”. I don’t remember what happened next. But I’ll bet Captain Kirk saved the day…

          We are already semi-slaves to the system. Imagine how it might become as we move forward into “AI”…

          1. I remember that. I wish I could find it again.

            Developers have been automating for decades and putting people out of work in the office since computing existed. AI is just developers writing code to write themselves out of a job.

            I believe there is a short story about it also now that I think about it. Humans had found out how to live a thousand years but don’t know why. They had no curiosity. They rarely procreated. They had consolidated to a few cities that were autonomous. I believe the problem was that the machines were failing t fix themselves and the humans didn’t understand the problem. I believe one city was called yawk city. I bet it was the 90s when I read it.

  13. Scanning our emails, then looked at one from Hodges, head lines were hello Madame Prez Pelosi. Talk about a oh my ‘blank’ moment!

    Wonder if that is why they are going after Trump and Pence, she would be the next one to take over the white house.
    That diffently would be a black swan moment in my book, pure chaos could erupt.
    Paper bag please..with cut outs.

  14. While relatively new to this site, I do think from my observations that the vast majority of folks here do not “fear” an event, that is why they prep, so that they do not have to “live in fear” that some major disaster may happen. Just like folks who live in major hurricane areas, those that are well prepared are FAR ahead of those that wait until they are told to evacuate, before attempting to buy bottled water/food/batteries, which is likely to be sold out by then.

    No matter your feelings on the Gov, Black Swan events, EMP, Etc. the discussions that take place here are very informative, as I read all comments….and all are valid as we really don’t know what the future could bring. So please everyone, even if no one else agrees with you, keep making those comments….. I find them all valuable!

    Believe it or not, I even sometimes watch the “mainstream media” (or as much as I can stomach without getting the duck tape out to wrap my head to keep it from exploding). You really need to know how the “other-side” thinks/acts to be truly informed. Every tidbit of knowledge/intel gained is useful at some point.

    1. Great post MPD2211. Like you, I find every comment beneficial to some part of my learning and preparing.

  15. By definition a black swan event is unforeseeable but……. The more complex any system becomes the more likely any single component will fail. No one can doubt that our society much less the world is more complex now than at anytime in history. As far as what the next black swan might be “we don’t know what we don’t know”.

    Money keeps the power grid from being protected from an EMP because no one want to pay for it, one example of a weak link. The idea of disposablity as a virtue makes nearly everything we buy a throw away and not a robust sturdy heirloom type of investment, IMHO another weak link in the chain to disaster.

    We can only prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

    1. It is always about money. Even when it isn’t about money.

      The more complex the system and the more critical the system the more checks, safeties, and built-in redundancies. Eventually this leads to better resiliency. This is becaus few complex systems are built in a day. Most evolved there as a side-effect of providing a solution to some other problem you didn’t originally know you had.

      At some point is it really a wise use of resources to try to mitigate the risk of everything? When do we start having a spare Earth and a system to snapshot our consciousness to a spare of ourselves on that spare Earth?

      The rolling blackouts of 1998 and 2003 re-iterated the importance of restoration on a large scale which lead to NERC TOP and EOP standards among others. The NERC CIP standards caused the identification and protection of assets used to control the bulk electric system with a focus on electronic access. NERC and EPRI have been issuing reports on EMP/GMD but in reality I don’t think it matters much. Poor vegetation management is more likely to cause the next big outage vs an EMP.

  16. That “black swan” event can happen at any stage of our complex lives. We have willingly walked into that convenience trap.

    One simple example of our exposure to an unforeseen breakdown affecting our lives is the source of our clothing. Not only do we not know how to make the fabrics, zippers, buttons, … in this country anymore, but we do not even know how the fabrics themselves are made. Do we have any of the equipment or raw materials needed for this type of production.
    So, how susceptible are we to a disruption in just being able to dress ourselves? Our exposure (literally) to “black swans” in even simple human needs is great.

    Never mind that thing that runs most of our lives now in vehicles, appliances, communication, production, … the computer chip – what materials, who makes them, … this one component shortage alone is enough to hobble us.

    Hell, it will not take a “black swan” event, just the law of probability that one of a countless number of our systems that provide our comfort and existence will break down.

  17. The Woodpile report—“the right will never accept socialism– the left will never accept anything less–”

    The coming election could be ugly–
    Will it be the event, black swan or not, that causes real problems??
    You know– martial law to some extent—social unrest on a national level??

    1. Tango,
      I would be willing to bet money on it, with all the crap they been throwing at DJT and ole teflon Don is still cruizin you can bet he has his people watching, and i dont mean the dual agents in .gov but his private bought and paid for guys here and away, for any BS from the leftist garbage like what they tried to do.
      The dumbazz donkeys will try all hell to win and will fail miserably because people are sick and tired of their BS, at least enough to matter, and when DJT smokes everybody by miles the donkey azzes will come unglued, when they do it will be a free for all. And wont end well for anyone,
      There are just as many idiots who like the leftist garbage that are LEO or Vets or active duty, and tons of these idiots in the general pop so it wont be as one sided as people think, i know this because lately i have met and worked along side and for a few of these douches over the last couple years and have met the authorities who think the right is the problem.
      Personally, i want nothing to do with any of this crap, but if pushed am at a point in life where my gove a shit is gone

      1. Kulafarmer,
        I can totally understand your post. I have been surprised as of lately with how many of my fellow officers hate DJT. I was shocked, I never knew so many of them were Dems. Even though I am surprised of how many officers are Dems, still 75% of our officers are conservatives. I guess the current politically climate combined with all the misinformation from MSM, that side of them are starting to show. I’m wondering now, how’s it going to be come late 2020. The more I think about it, the more I’m starting to believe, it may not make to the elections in November 2020. Somebody hold my beer!

        1. Ha!
          Hey somebody hold my beer,
          Watch this!
          I kinda miss those days.

          Thats how i know we are screwed Dan, there are just as many, and in some AOs more from the left side. Its odd, they would rather the nanny state than freedom, they dont even realize what they are supporting, i attribute it to simple minds that lack the ability of deductive reasoning. When they finally catch a clue it will be too late.

    2. I agree with your notion that there could be great difficulty with neither side “accepting” the results of NOV-2020.

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