Black Swan Mania Part2

Black Swan Mania Part2

Jun 21st, 2011

From the Black Swan list we can count 1 Political/social Black Swan (Unrest in the Middle East).

Now if we look at the last 200 years of Human history we can easily count at least 16 ( political/social major large scale events. Even without considering two World Wars, but only “a few additional wars since then“, we get, for the sake of simplicity, to a total of around 20.

So, now, the question is: how can anyone try to argue that something that happens approximately  20 times in 200 years is a Black Swan?

Having worked many times as expert in courts (civil and criminal) we can tell you that no judge, no jury, would follow a theses claiming that some event happening world-wide 20/200=10% of any year is a “hard to predict, rare event”!

The Black Swan list also shows 1 Terror Attack Black Swan (Twin Towers & Pentagon).

Here we would be forced to enter into a more detailed discussion: as a matter of fact, the Twin Towers might well have been the largest terror attack event “ever”, even if we consider the towers as two separate attacks (which occurred very close in timer and space to each other), but many countries have and are subject to terror attacks or terror(istic) eras (Ireland, Israel, Italy, Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, USSR etc. just to quote a few), mass murder etc. with a total number of victims comparable, if not larger. The will to kill other human beings for political, religeous, ethnic reasons is certainly not unpredictable, and examples abound in human history!

All that to say that, again, considering September 11 as a Black Swan seems almost blind, or at least uninformed, especially since many critical structures all around the world, have been designed, from the 70s on, considering possible accidental impacts from a large aircraft (nuclear reactors domes, and if we are not mistaken, the Towers themselves), proving that “some people” were thinking ….

So, if on one hand it was difficult to believe that an entire group of terrorists would decide to participate in such a simultaneous suicidal attack, rational experts had foreseen such an “improbable” accidental event and taken measures against it (the fact that the measures might have been inefficient is out of the scope of this post). Terrorists just dramatically changed the probability of that accidental event, making it voluntary, but did not change its consequences! Thus, I would not try to argue with a judge that the Twin Towers were a Black Swan!

By the way, if you look here  you will see how probabilities of events can be estimated for the sake of a risk assessment, even if data are scarce, and you will see that such an event would have been evaluated at a very low level, but certainly not discarded in a serious risk assessment. Please note however that of course much more detailed solutions exist!


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Category: Consequences, Hazard, Probabilities, Risk analysis

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