Yeah, I know. A group of swans is actually called a bevy, or, if in flight, a wedge. Not a flock, or some other name. You knew that, right? (I didn’t)
Two down, plenty where they came from
We have now chalked up two Black Swans (the pandemic, the Floyd Revolt) in nary a few months. Probably more on the way, soon. My question: when you get swarms of Black Swans, do they come equally spaced out or ever more quickly and ever closer together? As in, do they emerge at a geometrically increasing rate?
I ask because it seems to me that there is an awfully large group of potential Black Swans amassing out there. How about 30 plus countries whose economy is close to total failure, maybe another 20 where revolution or total social breakdown is possible? How about the Mexican economy going kaput in 12 months’ time?
Or how about another couple of pandemics, say measles and polio, since vaccinations seem to have become unfashionable? Maybe even smallpox, say an outbreak starting in the Congo? Throw in a couple more famines in Africa, several more wars, maybe a world war? There’s clearly no shortage of candidates.
By their nature Black Swans are unpredictable, at least their timing is. So, once you have a bevy of them, they could take to the air at any time, just like we have seen with the pandemic.
A world without humans?
I’m an occasional reader of dystopian novels. Perhaps you recall Stephen Hawking’s prediction that humans have no more than 100 years left. So that’s why I’m interested in the Black Swan emergence algorithm. If we only get a couple, or they’re spaced out in linear fashion, we might be ok. If not, then the dystopian scenarios rear their head.
What could those scenarios entail? While it’s really too ghastly to envisage, here are a couple. Nihilist hackers take over the computer systems of several nuclear-armed countries and convince them all they are under nuclear attack. Voila, nuclear winter within 6 months. Dystopia follows.
A terrorist movement hacks an EMP (electromagnetic pulse bomb) and explodes it over the US so we retaliate against Russia and China. All three countries are blasted back to the Middle Ages.
In both these Black Swan events, economies revert to medieval times. Mass starvation. Human population sinks to 1 billion from the current 7. Most countries cease to exist. Human governance reverts to local warlords. Most human knowledge evaporates. Etc. etc.
This is all kind of boring compared to what is actually likely to happen. It’s impossible to think where a bevy of Black Swans would actually lead. Nowhere good, in any case.
Are there white Black Swans?
Of course, we’ve always had Black Swans. It’s just that there’s likely to be a lot more of them at the same time there’s a lot more of us, and there’s a lot nastier things could happen.
The last Depression stretched out over more than a decade. The 2020 Depression occurred within 3 months. So next time we won’t have much time to contemplate what to do since it’s all going to happen very quickly. Way too quickly for our globally feeble governance and leadership systems to make any effective response.
Could there also be white Black Swans out there too? A super-vaccine for covid-19 that just blows it away immediately? Two or three super-leaders who emerge to provide real global leadership? A Second Coming?
Let’s hope so.