"Black swans are to finance and climate change what hanging chads were to Florida election officials - the nightmare everyone would like to ignore. But we ignore black swans at our peril - which is unfortunately what financial deregulation and failure to take precautionary measures to avoid climate change amount to." Robin Hahnel,Climate Risks: Lessons From The Financial Crisis
The key to our collective future success (from maximal wealth creation to basic survival), will be in how we mitigate the impact of black swans generated by global instability. One of the best approaches I've encountered is to add resilience to the very fabric of our global system, the community." John Rob writing on the Transition movement in GlobalGuerillas Open Source Insurgency
"It should be obvious, but it's not ... In Nassim Nicholas Taleb's definition, a black swan is a large-impact hard-to-predict rare event beyond the realm of normal expectations. The event most commonly referred to as a black swan is the 9/11 attack. The term comes from people's expectation for all swans to be white and not expecting the rare black ones until spotting one ... Nassim Taleb goes on [in Edge] to ask and discuss some very important questions: 'The puzzling question is why is it that we humans don't realize that we don't know anything about the significant brand of randomness? Why don't we realize that we are not that capable of predicting? Why don't we notice the bias that causes us not to realize that we're not learning from our experiences? Why do we still keep going as if we understand them?'" Link
So what is a black swan event?
You must not let your life run in the ordinary way; do something that nobody else has done, something that will dazzle the world. Show that God's creative principle works in you.Paramahansa Yogananda. Link
Try this on for size. You are strolling through a life-frenzied field of milkweed butterflies and parachute balls, jupata grass and ancient acorn-rich white oaks, chatting and laughing with a dear, dear friend when suddenly a slight breeze swirls around the two of you. Then, picking up speed, the soft squall lightly lifts your shoeless companion off her feet. She sails away, without a word, gently grasping the handle of her sky-blue Asian silk parasol.
You, mon amie, have just experienced a 'black swan event'. An event which is totally unexpected, akin to the reality-altering experience BSEs are named after; that being, the discovery by Europeans (who believed before traveling to Australia swans were only white) that (after their return and based upon first hand knowledge) this was NOT the case.
Black Swans are, for example, the recent Port-au-Prince earthquake, or the morning of September 11, 2001, or a few days in the fall of 2007 when Wall Street and Washington, in one fell swoop, yanked the rug out from underneath the entire global economy.
There is life as it was before the event and a radically altered experience of reality post the traumatic shock.
Traditionally, black swan events are considered and treated as extreme and rare occurrences with system wide consequences. As such, they are typically considered outliers, occurring infrequently enough to fall outside the normal boundaries of near/mid term analytical methodology.
Nassim Nicholas Taleb, on the contrary, believes Black Swans occur much more frequently than typical analysis indicates.
A scholar, essayist, epistemologist, statistician, risk engineer and trader, Tabeb is passionate about the need to "'robustify' society against Black Swans --occasional activism against those who fragilize it (bankers, economists, social scientists, oversized top-down governments, etc.) But I am bored with finance and interested in worthier mission,like b) Climate change: -- I am working on the opposite of conventional scientism: a precise protocol of what to do when you don't understand climate change --the Bonham declaration.
"I am interested in how to live in a world we don’t understand very well –in other words, while most human thought (particularly since the enlightenment) has focused us on how to turn knowledge into decisions, I am interested in how to turn lack of information, lack of understanding, and lack of "knowledge" into decisions –how not to be a "turkey". My last book The Black Swan (and the 4th Quadrant papers) drew a map of what we don’t understand (the ONLY attempt in the history of thought to set a clear and systematic limit to what we don't know); my current work focuses on how to domesticate the unknown "what to do in a world we don't understand."
"Never take advice from anyone in a tie. They'll bankrupt you. Don't ask a general for advice on war, and don't ask a broker for advice on money. Think about the derivatives mess—buying credit derivatives from these banks was like buying insurance for the Titanic from people who were on the Titanic!" — Nassim Nicholas Taleb
According to the Black Swan Theory, unpredictable events are much more common than people think and are the norm and not the exception. Taleb believes that the more educated people are, the more likely it is that they incorrectly believe these unpredictable events are uncommon. Taleb says that because of an information overflow in today's society, we often don't interpret data accurately and create correlations that are not always relevant, when randomness more often is the rule.
Taleb does not believe in the expertise of bankers or financial analysts and says that society incorrectly believes that they can predict the future. Newsweek: Don't Trust Anyone In a Tie(November 15, 2008)
Looking inside the aquarium, i moved closer to make sure it was a live octopus inside a bottle. I wondered how he was able to get inside a bottle then realized something moved. His slit-shaped pupil blinked and then finally I realized it was the octopus eye! :)
Black Swans and the Climate Crisis
Contemporary economics, short-term thinking, and the need to quantify and compartmentalize our ideas in order to make sense of them, all serve to remove the 'gray area' from our sense of reasoning; unfortunately, the gray area is the source material from where the highest potential for discovery lies. Saying all swans are white was correct, until the first documentation of a black-colored species. Previous models become useless, and the world view changes in an instant. Extending this to other areas of contemporary markets, most of the major financial risks were assumed to be properly hedged, until the recent collapse of the banking system. Weather has these Black Swans too. It follows that blindly assuming continued warming climate trends will lead to the observation of slightly warmer temperatures year over year may work for a while, until a cold snap like the one that hit the eastern US at the beginning of last winter produces one of the coldest starts to winter in many years.
With climatological analysis, there will always be extreme cases that will be recorded and will appear well outside of the majority of the histogram. Ignoring these data points, however, is the absolute last thing a careful observational scientist should do. The most interesting answers are usually found in the tails. When we are trying to understand the physical mechanisms that lead to these values, it is plain foolishness to smooth the data, minimizing peaks and troughs, and in the process diminishing the importance of these outliers; doing this masks the opportunity to learn something new about climate behavior. Link
In an article GLOBAL: Beware of black swans!, Peter Walker, director of the Feinstein International Centre at Tufts University, says that, sans doute, attempting to calculate the impact of climate change can be a tricky business. Comprehensive forecasting, which connects current events and future consequences, entails expanding the list of variables under consideration. Along with variations like moisture content, air and temperature movement and radiation, the list might also include the rise in sea level, increases in food prices and statistics relating to malnutrition.
Models, says Walker, provide an extremely "simplified picture of what may happen under very tightly proscribed conditions. They do not predict the future!
"Where models fall down is if the accrual variables affecting the future turn out to be ones they [scientists] have not mapped. So, what if conflict triggered by climate changes turns out to be a big issue [in future]? What if the relationships between the variables change as a different future evolves?"
Open Source Insurgency & Transition; Flash Mobs & Creating Black Swans
Open Source Insurgency (OSI) relies on the concept of 'superempowerment' -- the substantially increased ability of small groups and individuals to accomplish goals through the rapid and expert application of technology and access to global markets. As an organizational method, non-violent OSI focuses on how superempowered groups can work together to take on much larger hierarchial systems by utilizing "innovation, increased survivability, frequent unpredictable actions and the ability to swarm targets" OpenSource insurgency
Witness the Flash Mob:
COP15's First Flash Mob: Click here for 24 Flash Mobs you Need to see to believe.
Applying the principles of open source insurgency to the work of the Transition Movement (as well as the goal of awakening and motivating the public to mobilize), the OSI concepts of 'the plausible promise' and 'the foco' are evident.
A)The plausible promise, which identifies 'the enemy' or 'threat' and incentivizes the group with a simple goal, adding viability to the movement by demonstrations.
In Transition, the enemy or threat is the horrifying scenario of a post-carbon world, devastated by extreme climate and totally eviscerated by the collapse of the global economy.
B)The foco. A small initiating group which defines the goal and initiates the operation. The group surrenders control to new leaders after initial phases, decentralizing control over how the goal is achieved, communications and who will participate. The group remains small, nonhierachial and shares resources and information, recruits with other groups and individuals united around the same goal, and expects that others will share as well.
In Transition, a core initiating team drives the project forward at the onset but anticipates its demise in inherent in its formation; the group networks with existing groups, promotes high visibility local events such as a 'great unleashing' or a 'great reskilling' Tantamount to Transition idealogy is 'Let it go where it wants to go." Link
Oxford's Natural History Museum is a neo-gothic building architected by Benjamin Woodward. In 1860 a debate about evolution took place here, where effectively the theological views of creation were defeated in the eyes of the Victorian public, hence giving way to a much more widespread acceptance of Darwin's theories ... It has real historical meaning and is one of the places I advise everyone to visit. Link
"... recent findings and the speculation surrounding them somewhat undercut ideas advanced in recent years by evolutionary psychologists, who have proceeded under the assumption that we modern humans still have the minds of Paleolithic hunters. The genetic evidence suggests instead that our brains, digestive systems, and immune systems are all subtly adapting to our altered environments.
The news that we humans can adapt rapidly, not only culturally but even physiologically, is certainly welcome: we need to change dramatically if we are to survive. But just how rapidly can we adapt? Can we, crucially, overcome our tendency toward denial before we've pushed the climate too far?
Characteristics are selected for when they permit an organism to leave more offspring. If we persist in denial, we may leave no surviving offspring, or very few. We've reached a point, or encountered a situation, where denial is not adaptive. We're on the horns of history's greatest dilemma, and only by accepting the options actually available, and pursuing the less-awful option with creativity and compassion, will we stand a chance. Richard Heinberg
Fifth Generation Warfare
In an open letter to President Obama entitled "Welcome to 5G Warfare," author Umair Haque defines the information war currently underway in America as being "culturally, socially, and economically violent. And its ultimate goal is that of any war: political defeat.
"4G war was network against state," Hague writes. "Think Al-Qaeda vs America. 5G war is network against network, market against market, community against community. And the problem is that the right has a network, and are utilizing it to learn the art of 5G warfare — but you don't, and you aren't.
"To win this war, you've got to become a master not just of politics — but of network economics. I've studied in detail the handful of 5G wars that have taken place so far, between corporations, investors, and states."
Hague's ten rules include: Speed it up, microchunk it, meta-attack, anti-defend, Darwinian counter-attacks, hack your enemy's weapons, normatize it, self-organize hyperlocally, remix it, and attack the base. (Read details here).
Curiosity piqued? Ready for more? Check out Dreaming 5GWand stay tuned for further updates in a series designed to turn your world upside down, in an empowering, Holy FS manner. After researching this, all I can say for now, with any certainty, is be prepared. Be very, very prepared. For what you're not in any manner, shape or form, prepared for.
As Thom Hartmann says each and every morning, "Tag! You're it!"
Note: Part I of this series,dkgreenroots: oil addiction, climate deniers & transtheoretical change, published Sunday evening.
The problem of denial
After Copenhagen: A Transition Event
Getting over oil one town at a time. New Science Mag, Feb. 10
Stages of Addiction & change
Preparing an Energy Descent Plan: A Primer
5th generation warfare
365.010 by twintermute
Black Swans by Raja Daja
the lightness of being ~ by alicepopkorn
Joker by Stephen Poff
Octopus Inside A Bottle by julesnene
Oxford's Natural History Museum by Nuno Leitao
GreenRoots is an environmental series created by Meteor Blades and Patriot Daily for Daily Kos. This series provides a forum for educating, brainstorming, discussing and taking action on various environmental topics.
Please join a variety of hosts on Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday at 6 pm PDT. Each Wednesday is hosted by FishOutofWater.