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there is only finite knowledge and understanding. In other words we are simply unaware of the mechanisms that lead to unexpected events.

When the finite nature of knowledge conceals a game changing event, then what you call the trigger mechanism probably doesn't matter much, in the new world that emerges.

And I do think that there are outliers that could really alter history. Imagine the results of practical fusion energy. It's not at all preposterous.

(Aside)What do you think of Paris as a survivable environment? Of cities in general? Email me?

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Tue Mar 1st, 2011 at 02:14:45 AM EST
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Other way to get black swans is to limit your own thinking, just don't look at certain models. Then BAH! - a black swan! Someone may have predicted but was silently left out of political "discussion".

This is what basically happened from the 1980s on. As it appears to me, wondering about limits of growth was not an extravagant pursuit until the 1970s. But then the growth concerns were just excluded from political processes, only appearances of concern were held by Gore and some educational systems. Rather emphatically, the 1980s saw fuller adaptation of growth policies - just contrary to whatever Club of Rome implied. Never mind the critics when only echo chamber is left to the worried geeks.

The silent disregard of growth concerns and adaption of opposite policies suggest to me a deliberate choice by some or other elite policy makers. Quite conceivably, a forced overshot could be a survival strategy. Of course, we do not talk here about survival of humanity as we know it, or even survival of particular nations or societies. But when an overshot is problematic or inconvenient to avoid, why not force more abrupt predicaments, disguised by every known financial, military and ecological folly, make the unsustainable run-up time shorter, and then inherit the Earth and share it with a modest "sustainable" group of alike smarts (and some number of indebted serfs)? You don't really need ever improving technology, you would be already happy if there is enough infrastructure left to run your kids' iPad.

by das monde on Wed Mar 9th, 2011 at 11:51:33 PM EST
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