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Friday, March 18, 2011

Black Swans

The Washington Post has an article by Reporter Joel Achenbach, on Black Swan events.  It can be found here.

The term Black Swan refers to the term used by Professor Nassim Nicholas Taleb, of New York University, who wrote The Black Swan:  The Impact of the Highly Improbable.

The article talks to the coming California Earthquake, but then reminds us of the New Madrid Fault in the Mississippi Valley, a fault in South Carolina and other problem areas.  Then the writer throws in the possibility of an earthquake in Boston, down state from us.  About a decade ago a member of the Massachusetts Army National Guard told me they had looked into this possibility and expected it could happen and that it would not be without casualties.

The consensus is that no one can afford protection against all possible outcomes.  Thus, the emphasis is upon response and resilience.  From the article:
The disaster experts have a buzzword:  resilience.  You can’t stop the disaster from happening — the very nature of a black swan is that it catches you off-guard — but you can increase the speed and grace with which society bounces back.

“Think of resilience in terms of the old Timex commercial,” said Jack Hayes, director of the National Earthquake Hazard Reduction Program.  “It can take a licking and keep on ticking.”

Regards  —  Cliff

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

too bad Cambridge isn't built on fill (as is most of Boston) sitting squarely on an unstable fault. Oh....sorry....can't use "fault" with Cambridge........