Of Black Swans and Oil Spills

220px-Cygnus_Atratus_Singapore

I’m not referring to swans covered in oil.  I’m referring to the theory of black swan events, developed by Nassim Taleb.  These events are characterized by the fact that they are rare, hard to predict, have a high impact and the psychological biases that make people blind to the chance they occur and the magnitude of their outcome.

The BP oil spill (or more appropriately, leak)  is just such an event.  Nobody thought it would would happen and nobody understood the impact if it did happen.

Here’s the poop:  no matter how advanced the offshore drilling technology, and the current technology is very advanced, these types of events are bound to happen.  Given that, the question becomes is the inevitable impact worth the oil?

Advertisements

36 Comments

Filed under dnd

36 responses to “Of Black Swans and Oil Spills

  1. Morning peeps,
    Well I’m not familiar with Mr. Taleb’s theory but I’m not sure this oil spill qualifies if I follow your point d. This event would have been a lot less likely to have happened had BP not done everything on the cheap and had followed the proper safety precautions. The technology is only as good as the people running it, these were not very good people.

  2. Judge Blocks Parts of Arizona Immigration Law
    By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Published: July 28, 2010

    PHOENIX (AP) — A judge has blocked the most controversial sections of Arizona’s new immigration law from taking effect Thursday, handing a major legal victory to opponents of the crackdown.

    The law will still take effect Thursday, but without many of the provisions that angered opponents — including sections that required officers to check a person’s immigration status while enforcing other laws. The judge also put on hold a part of the law that required immigrants to carry their papers at all times, and made it illegal for undocumented workers to solicit employment in public places.

    U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton put those controversial sections on hold until the courts resolve the issues.

    Opponents say the law will lead to racial profiling and is trumped by federal immigration law.

  3. TempeBev

    You beat me – yea something positive finally happened in AZ.

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/38436995/ns/us_news-immigration_a_nation_divided/

  4. dog's eye view

    I think we are going to see a lot more “Black Swans” than you’d expect in a “normal” environment.

    Eight plus years of profit-seeking, short term thinking, and lax regulation — reducing your margin by playing to the extremes — will do that.

    Would any of us have expected all the ills that befell in the year after Bush-Cheney slunk out of office?

    We knew Obama was going to have terrible sledding with the economy, but the trials have been biblical in nature.

    Plus institutional rot and fail. On just about every level you examine.

    Black is the new normal for swans.

  5. dog's eye view

    What do you think of nuclear as a short term solution on the way to reducing our coal/oil addiction?

    Know it’s used safely in France, etc., but how do you replicate that in our country, with executives who skip safety measures any time it’s short term profitable?

    It’s the rare American corporation that has a soul. They’re all about profit and short term thinking.

    Invasion of the MBAs, rather than R&D and operations types.

    We’ve had our MBA president. (From Harvard, no less.)

  6. TempeBev

    I may be naive, but it seems that many new technologies that have been developed are already being used and are working in parts of Europe but are not yet approved, available or in limited use in the US. (Solar power, wind farms, pharmaceuticals and many more).

    Perhaps it’s as Dog mentions, “It’s the rare American corporation that has a soul. They’re all about profit and short term thinking.”

  7. Dog I’m very for using nuclear as a stop gap measure.

  8. dog's eye view

    Hi Bev. Agreed re the rest of the world getting a jump on alternative technology. When are we going to wake up?

    New products and innovations all the time, and we fund dinosaurs because they have such a lobby and too much political influence.

    Brian: have been wondering about nuclear in the short term, but how do you make sure it’s as safe as possible?

    Any good articles you’ve seen on the topic?

  9. Well all things considered dog it has a far better safety record than coal/oil fire plants do when you take all factors into account.

  10. dog's eye view

    Dang. Would love to hang about with you guys, if you’re online, but have to do some errands.

    They’re tearing up the local streets (stimulus money; happy to see that) so you get an extra 20+ minutes to get anywhere. Gridlock until mid-August.

    Ciao for now, and will check in with you later. Have a good one!

  11. dog's eye view

    Hi Brian: is that just because there’s so much less of nuclear, and it’s a newer technology?

    Does anyone count dead miners and rig workers when looking at coal and oil’s true cost?

    Or environmental damage?

  12. Well that’s my point dog, when you add up all the factors nuclear strikes me a pretty safe alternative.

  13. dooty

    I think Brian should consider the storage of spent nuclear fuel rods. The authorities want to store them in the desert. In my state. I am not happy about that. How would you feel Brian if you had to have those rods stored about 10 blocks from where you live? NIMBY.

  14. I live about 20 miles south of two operating reactors, it doesn’t bother me. I’d rather live 20 miles south of a nuke power plant than an oil or coal fired plant.

    • dnd

      Fascinating. You smoke like a chimney, you live in a city choked with traffic and auto pollution. I doubt you’d notice any effect of a coal plant. 😉

      I live about 10 mi south of a coal fired plant. The air here is pristine. It’s got great scrubbers in the stacks, though there is talk of turning it to natural gas.

      But to Doots point: where to they store the spent nuclear waste? Do they dump it in the Hudson?

  15. Turn it into glass and drop in the mid ocean rift.

  16. Tossing NIMBY at me really isn’t going to carry a lot of weight with me. And your argument about the cost and time frame to build a nuke is hollow to since so much of that has to do without a bad regulatory system.

    • dnd

      “Tossing NIMBY at me really isn’t going to carry a lot of weight with me.”

      Never does with NIMBYs. That was kind of Doots point.

      “And your argument about the cost and time frame to build a nuke is hollow to since so much of that has to do without a bad regulatory system.”

      Um, that sentence made no sense. Do you mean that you don’t want strict regulation of the nuclear power industry?

  17. And Buzzz, I wasn’t wrong, I was my opinion and gave it. Buzzzz.

    • dnd

      I asked what your nuclear power plants did with waste. You said they turned it into glass and dumped into the ocean. That may be your opinion, but that’s not the facts. Bzzzz! Wrong again!

    • dnd

      “And Buzzz, I wasn’t wrong, I was my opinion and gave it. Buzzzz.”

      Well then give some context to replying to a post that was made two hours and many comments prior to your reply.

  18. No I want the process cleaned up and made efficient. And you should check your 6:50 post, you invoked NIMBY also.

    • dnd

      “No I want the process cleaned up and made efficient.”

      I have a degree in Physics. You do not. This is something I know a little something about. Listen and learn.

      ” And you should check your 6:50 post, you invoked NIMBY also.”

      Only to point out, based you your comments, Doots was correct.

  19. No, I was responding to doots 5:08 post, not to you, so Buzzzz wrong again.

  20. “I have a degree in Physics. You do not. This is something I know a little something about. Listen and learn.”

    I’m not impressed, doctors get sued for malpractice too you know. You think you’re right, I think I’m right, end of story.

  21. “Listen and lean”?

    You’re voice has the power to make people loose weight? What do you trigger anorexia by the sound of your voice?

  22. Now you’re going to tell me how I should blog? I think not.

    • dnd

      I’m not telling you how to blog, I’m telling you how to make your comments understood. If there’s no context to a comment made two hours and and many comments before, who the hell knows what your talking about? Particularly if you use a word or phrase that was used in other comments, but not the one you are replying to.

      But if you want to be one of those people in the subway who rant to no noticeable target, be my guest 😉

  23. dog's eye view

    Gentlemen!

  24. Dam Breach in Tennessee Releases Tsunami of Toxic Coal Sludge

    http://solveclimate.com/blog/20081223/dam-breach-tennessee-releases-tsunami-toxic-coal-sludge

    Thank god scrubbers have rendered coal fired plants so earth friendly.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s