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There is a lot of error in estimating tail probabilities and they tend to be systematically underweighted, particularly in complex systems.Thus, with several thousand Black Swan technology “shots on goal,” where most predict that each individual shot will fail, I predict we’ll see at least 10 incredible successes.Because of this, the skeptical questions such as “wasn’t this tried before? To summarize, “rarity, extreme impact, and retrospective (though not prospective) predictability.” So these technological Black Swans engender shocks that have retrospective, but not prospective, predictability and material impact in at least one large domain.
They may have up to a 90% chance of failure, but if they succeed, everything changes.
Ironically, many appear to have a high probability of failure mostly because they have not been given sufficient scientific focus. Author Nassim Taleb defines a Black Swan event as (1) an outlier—it lies outside the realm of traditional expectations in that evidence from the past did not predict the future event; (2) it carries a significant impact; and (3) in spite of its outlier status, it is justified by explanations that are derived and accepted after the fact.
The looming twin challenges of climate change and energy production are too big to be tackled by known solutions and time-‐honored traditions.
Incremental remedies are fine for incremental problems, but they are insufficient for monumental, potentially life-‐altering threats, which need to be approached with a disruptive mindset.
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We need non-‐linear jumps in technologies – Technological Black Swans! Environmentalists have done a superb job identifying the problem, but often push impractical idealistic solutions at high cost or inconvenience to consumers.
I believe that capitalism and self-‐interest driven models of new technology adoption are the lowest risk way to achieve a low carbon social infrastructure and plentiful energy.
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