Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Things that are so out of the ordinary that we cannot anticipate them.

An interesting observation from The world will only get weirder by Steve Coast.
It used to be that airliners broke up in the sky because of small cracks in the window frames. So we fixed that. It used to be that aircraft crashed because of outward opening doors. So we fixed that. Aircraft used to fall out of the sky from urine corrosion, so we fixed that with encapsulated plastic lavatories. The list goes on and on. And we fixed them all.

So what are we left with?


And so, with more rules we have solved most of the problems in the world. That just leaves the weird events left like disappearing 777’s, freak storms and ISIS. It used to be that even minor storms would be a problem but we have building codes now (rules). Free of rules, we’d probably have dealt with ISIS by now too.

Ultimately, this is why the world is getting weirder, and will continue to do so. Now with global media you get to hear about it all.
Every system needs variation in it in order to evolve and remain effective, but tactically, we are inclined to drive out variation in order to achieve short term efficiency.

I think what Coast is getting at is that we pay a lot of attention to efficiency (driving out variation) but relatively little attention to long term effectiveness. Consequently, most of what we experience is incredibly efficient but subject to diminution over time. The corollary to that is that we have driven out most of the predictable variation and are now left essentially with Nassim Nicholas Taleb's Black Swan events. Things that are so out of the ordinary that we cannot anticipate them. I.e weird things.

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