Nassim Taleb, whose book The Black Swan added a term to our vocabulary, has offered a brief discussion of how we might anticipate. As we continue to reflect on the enormous damage done in 2008.
His point is basically to draw a distinction between linear and exponential factors. As well we know, with Moore’s Law driving core aspects of technological change, the impact of exponential factors may be expected to increase, exponentially (my point, not Taleb’s).
Here is his key para:
So here is something to use. And the technique, a simple heuristic, called fragility (and antifragility) detection heuristic works as follows. Let’s say you want to check if a town is overoptimized. Say you measure that when traffic increases by 10,000 cars, travel time to grows by ten minutes. But then if traffic increases by 10,000 more cars, travel time now extends by an extra thirty minutes. Such asymmetry shows that traffic is fragile and you have too many cars, and need to reduce traffic until the acceleration becomes mild (acceleration, I repeat, is acute concavity, or negative convexity effect).