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Future and Prediction - The Struggles to Catch the Black Swan! - Part 4

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Future and Prediction - The Struggles to Catch the Black Swan! - Part 4

What if we try to anticipate the unpredictable? What if it's not as simple as that?

· Agile Zone ·
Free Resource

In this series of articles, we will reflect on how we can predict major events and what can we do about them. In this article, we will focus on the struggles of probability calculation, and on how to think about countermeasures.

Fallible Predictability

However, the science of prediction tells us that it is incapable of being fully sure of itself. Pollsters for example very often give their margin of error, which is often 3-4 points, or, they even give some indication of confidence in their prediction. A bit like the weather forecast. 

To date, being 100% sure is not possible. So yes, black swans exist everywhere, and yes chance guides our lives. It's by chance if we have the family we have, the friends we have, the encounters and opportunities we have had. In short, we are ourselves the fruit of chance. So we should not base our risk management solely on what we think is predictable.

The Structuring of Probability

I would like to give you my point of view on the calculation of probabilities, which is part of risk management, by differentiating between two types of probability calculations: probabilities that "add up" and probabilities that "subtract".  

The probabilities that subtract are typically, for me, the probabilities like the probabilities found in plane crashes. A number of plane crashes are the result of several worries happening at the same time, all of which together led to a plane crash. The probability of an air crash of this type is calculated by multiplying the probability of each incident. However, since we multiply probabilities of less than 1, this is equivalent to subtracting one probability each time. To put it simply, the more a plane crash is due to a multitude of small incidents, the lower the probability. 

On the other hand, I distinguish between probabilities that add up. Let's take the example of a global pandemic. If I estimate the probability of a pandemic starting from anywhere in the world, this probability may seem infinitely low. If, on the other hand, I estimate this probability in a country where wild animals known to be pandemic vectors are eaten and that same country has become the factory of the world, then I can estimate that the probabilities add up to a probability close to 1.

Therefore, when studying the fields of the predictors, one must analyze the probabilities according to whether they are added or subtracted from probabilities, to possibly consider the highest probabilities as inevitable.

Countermeasures, From Fragility to Anti-Fragility

It is therefore necessary to learn to live with risk and chance by detaching oneself from low-impact risks, but also by seeking to make oneself robust, even anti-fragile. We can once again rely on Nassim Nicholas Taleb, with his book "Anti-Fragile". He distinguishes three distinctions: fragility, robustness, and anti-fragile. 

Let's take the example of the smartphone. A smartphone that falls and breaks is a smartphone that we will describe as fragile. A smartphone that doesn't break will be called robust. The one that duplicates itself when it falls, is anti-fragile. Anti-fragile is therefore the act of benefiting from a negative event.

Let's take the example of a Youtube user who makes a scandalous video. Their reputation will be tarnished, and yet this YouTuber will see the views of their videos and number of subscribers to their channel multiply.

So the idea is to identify all the points that can make us robust or anti-fragile, either by mitigating the risk or by avoiding it. With this, we can also study the opportunities that can be drawn from an unfortunate event.

Parts 1-5:

Future and Prediction - All Black Swans Look the Same! - Part 1

Future and Prediction - Hear the Black Swan Coming! - Part 2

Future and Prediction - Predict the Black Swan! - Part 3

Future and Prediction - The Struggles to Catch the Black Swan! - Part 4

Future and Prediction - Let’s Kill the Next Black Swan! - Part 5

Topics:
black swan ,prediction ,risk

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