Unpredictability: Black Swans and OCPs


So today we will be ending the year by discussing
the predictability of the future. This seemed an appropriate topic for a channel
focused on science and futurism, since it is so popular for folks to make predictions
about the future right before the end of the year. We do that year round on the channel so I
thought it more appropriate to discuss the uncertainty of predictions. We have two key concepts I wanted to bring
up in relation to this, though they are not our main focus themselves. The first is Black Swan Theory and Events,
and the second is Outside Context Problems, a pretty extreme form of black swan event. They are very similar in most regards and
both discuss not so much the unpredictability of the future but rather the disruption caused
by such events. I was considering also discussing Isaac Asimov’s
notion of Psychohistory, of predicting the broad trends of future events, but I think
we will save that for another time. Instead after introduce the concept I am going
to discuss a few Black Swans we might see in terms of technology and some of the disruptions
they might cause. We will start with explaining Black Swans. Black Swan Events is a concept that was coined
by Nassim Nicholas Taleb in his 2007 book, The Black Swan, and I’ll explain that in
a moment. The name Black Swan has a simple derivation. Historically all swans we saw were white,
so we assumed there were no black swans. The term Black Swan came to be one used to
describe something non-existent. As you probably know they do exist in Australia
and after being discovered the term mutated to mean something you did not think existed
but in hindsight is not exactly surprising. There are tons of black birds and no obvious
tough hurdle to getting that mutation to your feather color nor to survival. It’s not a neon green glow in the dark feather
color, something that would seem an improbable mutation, and which would seem a hindrance
to survival for any critter which wants to stay concealed. In hindsight the existence of a black swan
seems incredibly obvious. It would not be surprising if they did not
exist, but there is nothing surprising about their existence. This is the key concept of a Black Swan Event,
it has to match three criteria. First, it has to be unexpected. Not necessarily totally so but it has to be
hard to predict. Second, it has to have a major impact when
it occurs, something that majorly changes civilization. Third, it has to be clear in hindsight. I’ve heard this concept get used in a lot
of cases where it should not apply, especially in the world of finance it has become a bit
of buzzword. I saw an article that was bringing up possible
black swans for the economy and included the retirement of the President of European Central
Bank. Since the current incumbent is almost 70 years
old, I have difficulty imagining what is particularly unpredictable about that gentleman retiring. Needless to say an actual Black Swan ought
to be something that genuinely matches those criteria. Tons tend to be offered up which do not, or
at best maybe scrape in as pretty surprising, having a fairly large impact, or being more
obvious in hindsight. I tend to distrust a lot of the examples given
from old history, politics, or warfare because folks tend to have blinders about recording
such events accurately or viewing them without bias. And in any event we are most interested in
those relating to science and technology today anyway, so here are some examples of those
relating to science and engineering. The Chernobyl, Three-Mile-Island, and Fukushima
Nuclear accidents The Sinking of the Titanic
The Hinderburg Disaster I cite these ones as examples of both the
heavy impact of accidents, which tend be very unpredictable in advance but are often seen
as very obvious in hindsight, albeit sometimes just because folks need a scapegoat, and also
because of how they initiated a great deal of public distrust in the relevant technology
or industry. These accidents arguably had a disproportionate
response from the public in terms of their confidence in that technology. These do not have to bad though, many of them
are good things and indeed almost every memorable technological advancement is a black swan. The Invention of the Transistor, the personal
computer, the internet, and cell phones are each often deemed black swans with obvious
results, though I question how unpredictable any of those but the transistor was. The printing press, which allowed mass production
of cheap books, probably did more to fuel the rise of modern science and technology
than any other invention or scientific theory, by making knowledge so easy to access. Those effects were quite unpredictable though
both the result, and the device itself, are incredibly obvious and simple. In many respects it is not the invention itself,
or the accident, which interests us but rather the unexpected effects. We will give more of those in a bit, but another
old example would be the horse-collar, a device invented quite a long time before it arrived
in Europe but that on doing so created a massive food surplus which both allowed more people
and allowed more of them to pick specialist professions rather than farming. It would be very reductionist to say that
the rise of Europe to near global dominance in centuries that followed was principally
the result of the printing press or horse collar but a strong argument could be made
that it would not have occurred without both of those and hard to argue that they were
not major contributors to that. Interestingly it is just that rise which leads
into our main example of next concept, via the Conquistadors, the arguably more extreme
form of Black Swan Event called an Outside Context Problem. An Outside Context Problem, an OCP, is a good
deal different than a Black Swan but more in terms of degree. We get this term from Iain M. Banks’ 1996
scifi novel Excession, published a decade before Black Swan, where it is commented on
as follows: “An Outside Context Problem was the sort of
thing most civilizations encountered just once, and which they tended to encounter rather
in the same way a sentence encountered a full stop.” “The usual example given to illustrate an
Outside Context Problem was imagining you were a tribe on a largish, fertile island;
you’d tamed the land, invented the wheel or writing or whatever, the neighbors were
cooperative or enslaved but at any rate peaceful and you were busy raising temples to yourself
with all the excess productive capacity you had, you were in a position of near-absolute
power and control which your hallowed ancestors could hardly have dreamed of and the whole
situation was just running along nicely like a canoe on wet grass… when suddenly this
bristling lump of iron appears sailless and trailing steam in the bay and these guys carrying
long funny-looking sticks come ashore and announce you’ve just been discovered, you’re
all subjects of the Emperor now, he’s keen on presents called taxes and these bright-eyed
holy men would like a word with your priests.” Now such a thing occurring to us would not
be an Outside Context Problem, we would certainly be surprised if an alien ship arrived in orbit
tomorrow but we certainly have a context for it. We have for generations now, it has been the
subject of countless films, shows, and novels and we will also have it as a subject next
month. In this respect the OCP is essentially a very
extreme black swan, and I should note that neither has to be a bad thing, they can be
excellent things overall, like the internet. They can also be entirely natural. I would not call an asteroid impact on Earth
today an OCP, but it would probably be a Black Swan. Asteroid impacts are hardly unpredictable,
in fact we are very good at estimating their frequency these days. By looking at our own history and craters
on the moon we learned a lot. Loosely speaking the diameter of crater on
the moon is inverse cube to the frequency of craters of that size. There are 8 times as many 5 meter wide craters
as 10 meter wide craters and 8 times as many of those as 20 meter wide ones. For every hundred meter crater there are thousand
ten meter wide craters as those are one tenth the diameter and ten cubed is a thousand. So from this we know that kilometer wide asteroids
hit the Earth about twice in a million year period. They don’t hit every 500,000 years though,
you could go several millions year without one then have a few hit in a period of a just
a few thousand years. One is as likely to hit next week as in any
other week, and the odds are about 1 in 25 million that it should do so. Needless to say next week’s episode will
be probably be delayed should that occur. Also, needless to say, such an event would
have a big impact on our civilization, in a very literal sense. It’s hard to think of true OCP because they
have to be the sort of thing you never would expect, so the rise of a Computer Super-Intelligence
would not qualify. The example of the Mule from Isaac Asimov’s
Foundation series, the telepathic mutant who disrupted the predictive powers of psychohistory
in that story, would be an OCP I think. Amusingly I do not think either aliens or
computer super-intelligence would qualify because scientists and risk managers consider
those quite possible, whereas telepathic powers are considered possible by much of the population
but are not the sort of thing you’d expect to see governments having contingency plans
for. Ghost, angels, or demons would similarly qualify,
I don’t know if most people believe in all three but many do believe in one or more. I wouldn’t be surprised if governments had
contingency plans on the shelves to deal with the arrival of an alien spaceship but I would
be surprised if they had one for a portal to the pits of Hell to open up and demons
to come spewing forth or the four horsemen to come riding into town. Now there is an obvious reason why we do not
have contingency plans for such things and would be shocked by them, a lot of us would
consider it impossible and those who didn’t have a simple plan in mind, take a knee and
start praying. But that is kind of the point of an OCP, it
is something you just cannot anticipate and have no context for handling, like the Sun
not rising tomorrow, or gravity shutting off, or the Voyager Probe sending back an image
of a crystal sphere before smashing against it. It would be pretty mind-bending after centuries
of adapting ourselves to the notion that we are in a tiny corner of the Universe to find
out we lived inside a giant television faking the stars and that whoever made it had never
even expected us to interpret modern astronomy out of it but comes down for an interview
to tell us how impressive and fascinating they thought our crazy complex and elaborate
theories of cosmology were from what was actually random moving dots. Or if we managed to zoom down one more level
beneath quarks and saw something that looked suspiciously like galactic superclusters and
voids. Stuff like that would probably give me an
aneurysm and I’d be in existential shock for weeks as would most scientists I’d think. It wouldn’t even necessarily have to be
something we think is impossible or had an intelligent agency connected to it. Getting invaded by an Alternate Reality Earth
or have an incident where an ejected black hole wandered into our solar system to enter
a death spiral with the sun would qualify. There’s another OCP I imagine, portals opening
up and armies from a parallel Earth pouring through to conquer us. Again a lot of these sound absurd but for
it to be a genuine OCP it almost has to. Godzilla is not going to come storming out
of the ocean to terrorize Japan and the graveyards are not going to erupt with undead and spew
forth the Zombie Apocalypse but an OCP that can happen is the sort of thing you would
react to in a similar way if someone suggested it. I simply have no context for the idea that
all of a sudden a nearby mountain is going to open up a giant eyelid, look down at where
we’ve drilled a tunnel through it for a freeway, and standup to demand who the heck
we are, how so many of us got here while it was taking its brief million year nap, and
where we get off cutting holes in him. So that is an OCP, again it is pretty extreme
form of black swan, and also predates the concept by a decade. Though of course we have long had a concept
for both. Unpredictable events, or at least unpredicted
events, which play a pivotal role in history, not a terribly new concept in and of itself. Now let’s go ahead and play the prediction
game ourselves and try to look at some technologies, ones we’ve discussed before, and consider
some of the less obvious ways it might impact civilization. Just to illustrate how stuff can sneak up
on you. For instance we talk a lot on the channel
about fusion, the impact of fusion on our society was the subject of one of the earliest
episodes, and a point I focused on there was that it wasn’t just cheap electricity. In fact your electric bill would not drop
too much since much of it is not the price of fossil fuels or uranium but rather the
maintenance of the plant and electrical lines. The cost of fuel is a big factor in electrical
costs but dropping that to zero will not make your electrical bill drop to a tiny fraction
of what it was before because you are not paying for electricity, you are paying for
electricity to be reliably transported to your home. So even if we’re churning out gigawatts
of power for peanuts, we still have to pay the same to maintain the grid, which is no
trivial expense. It shifts the game though so that you are
essentially paying for access to power, not quantity of it, much like your classic telephone
connection where you paid the same whether you used it almost all day or maybe just for
a few minutes one or twice a week. Rather we saw the impact in a lot of secondary
areas where the actual cost of electricity was a major limiting factor. Suddenly the desalinization of water becomes
cheap enough to use for bulk agriculture, the price of aluminum, which is most electricity,
tumbles down to be competitive with steel, and indeed the price of fossil fuels plummets
because you no longer have to worry about its scarcity or environmental impact as you
have the energy to pay to suck carbon and water out of the air and recombine it into
hydrocarbons. A process that we can do now quite easily
but which takes more energy to do than would be released when you burn them. A pointless and self-defeating strategy when
those fuels are your primary power source but not when you wish to use them essentially
as batteries, running things which cannot easily be plugged into the grid. These are examples of secondary effects of
technologies that tend to get overlooked in discussing them and part of how they become
black swans. Many nations or places which are big oil producers
tend to be either deserts or tundras, their economies on first glance would be obliterated
by the end of fossil fuels but that same end opens the door to another form of wealth because
now you can get away with heated greenhouses in the tundra and mass irrigation via seawater
that has had the salt removed from it, those are secondary economic effects of commercial
fusion. You could either have a total meltdown of
the economy and society in big oil producers like that, or a sudden boom as Saudi Arabia
becomes a major exporter of grains. A Tertiary effect would be that it would be
a booming business turning out the aluminum and glass frames to make those tundra greenhouses,
or the geo engineering industry where you will have to come up with strategies to minimize
runoff from dumping trillions of liters of water onto deserts. Obviously being able to see the possible options
is best, but sometimes you cannot, which raises the idea of being robust against the unpredictable. Typically by diversification of assets and
industries when we’re talking economic unpredictability. But the same applies to warfare for instance,
and to evolution itself. This is one of the reasons why diversity is
highly valuable, even if a given option seems flat out better than the other alternatives. The purpose of competition is often not to
produce a single winner, but to produce several, each sharpened to their specific specialty. We do not want every athlete to compete to
be a marathon champion, we need them to be spread out to many games and as a society
we are most robust when we are built for decathlons. This is how you prepare for when predictions
do fall short, which they often do because of those secondary and tertiary effects, many
of which are quite predictable even in foresight, and many of which are not, that tend to both
take us off guard and result in the next over-night billionaire or boomtown. Many people did predict computers and cellphones
and the internet and online purchases decently before they became regular household features. I don’t remember anyone predicting things
like Google for search engines, Microsoft for Operating Systems, or Facebook for Social
media, not as these giant companies whose owners often have more wealth than some small
nations. Just for fun let’s consider a few others
we can partially predict for the next few generations. We contemplate space elevators as a very easy
way to get into space, we forget that a minor modification and addition to them allows hyper-fast
transit around the planet’s surface too. We consider face recognition software as a
handy way to tag people in photos on facebook, and we can see its value in law enforcement,
and we worry about how it damages privacy, yet that same technology could allow the automatic
removal of anyone from an image, either by not allowing that image or video to be uploaded
without their permission or blurring them out of it. We consider how nice it would be to have cameras
on us recording things so we can relive them years later, but ignore that same recognition
software could be used to rapidly scans your recording for where you last left your car
keys or the meal you had at a restaurant that you really enjoyed the last time you were
there so you can recall what it is to order it, or so that the software can analyze the
image and tell you what the calorie content is, or analyze your entire last year of eating
and tell you how many calories you had. Or index and itemize every receipt you were
handed. Forget that you can order groceries to be
delivered fifteen minutes later by drone if you are missing the key piece of a recipe,
what about the app that analyzes every food item you have in your house right now by scanning
the video of your memory or internal house cameras and tell you what meals you have enjoyed
before that you can make out of the available contents. Or can do one better and cross-match that
against what you have eaten recently to highlight the ones with rights calories and nutrients
for your next meal. How about an app that let’s everyone in
the room permit it access to their recording of pizza and quickly scans through for shared
mutual toppings everyone enjoys. Clothing displays that can render a quick
photorealistic image of you wearing that item of clothing, ads which do the same but show
you using that product, the billboard along the road that can recognize the ten people
about to pass it and analyze for the optimum product to display based on those ten people. The TV in the elevator that is smart enough
to start playing ads for deodorant and breath mints when it gets overloaded and stuck. These are the kind of things I personally
would predict we would see rolling out in the next decade or two. Not just labor saving devices like a robot
that can mow your lawn for you but tedium-saving devices that can do your paperwork for you
and anticipatory devices that monitor you, notice you’re a little sleepy and ask if
you want a cup of coffee. The phone that knows you are asleep or in
a meeting and will only ring for emergencies as you’ve previously defined them. Not the sign at the library telling you to
mute your phone but the signal in the library that tells those phones only to ring for emergencies,
and which you can tell to ignore such suggestions. Are things like that Black Swans? Some probably are, because while we call cell
phones black swans, when in fact they were entirely predicted, what we didn’t predict
is the change to culture norms and behaviors that accompanied them. Our interest today is not in making predictions,
there are plenty of those out there and I’ve never considered myself much more accurate
at making them than you would get just using tea leaves or a Ouija Board. Partially we are trying to emphasize just
how hard it is to foresee a lot of this stuff and why we shouldn’t trust a lot of the
predictions we often see in futurism because often our sense of logic blinds us. It is very easy to just say ‘of course X
will happen’ and get a bit myopic about the future. This channel is not and never really has been
about making predictions about the future, we tend to focus more on examining common
staples of futurism and science fiction and asking if they actually make much sense on
inspection, or if the concept might be resting on an assumption that is fundamentally flawed
and kills the entire concept. To make your civilization robust against the
sort of disruptions even positive black swans can bring, you have be constantly questioning
your basic assumptions about future predictions. We see this a lot when discussing space colonization,
how the assumption of having faster than light travel one day or settling people onto other
planets tends to blind us to the much more probable path into the future that we will
tend to build our habitats, not tweak existing ones. We don’t go hunting for new caves to live
in and then spruce them up to be nicer, we build caves where we want them instead. We also see it a lot with the Fermi Paradox
when people try to explain away the Great Silence in terms of their preconceptions of
how aliens ought to behave, and that’s something we will be looking at more next year, alien
civilizations. Not so much how they will behave, because
we cannot predict that much, but rather what we can say about how they would not behave. That will feed into our first two topics for
next year, the major black swan and possible full blown OCP of a first contact situation
with an alien civilization. We will get to that in two weeks, but first,
for next week, we are going to go through and look at a lot of common themes we see
in discussion of alien civilizations and ask ourselves if those actually make much sense
or could be viewed as misconceptions or even just flat out silly. Like the notion that aliens would want to
enslave humans or eat us. Or many others that just don’t make sense
at all and imply the aliens are just flat out stupid. We will try to clear away some of the science
fiction clutter about that so that we can go on the next week to ask ourselves about
a First Contact Situation, and then throughout the next year we will visit the topic of possible
alien civilizations some more. That will close us out for this year though,
Year 2, which has been an interesting one. The channel went from being a small one with
about a thousand subscribers and about a dozen episodes made every other month or so to one
with about 30,000 subscribers and weekly episodes. The first video of 2016, Moon Base Concepts,
didn’t even come out till February but the next video at the end of the month began our
weekly cycle, and I never thought I’d be able to keep up that rate of production but
now it feels pretty natural and the quality had continued to rise. A lot of that is thanks to the channels supporters
on Patreon, whose generous donations have helped to keep the channel going and improving. I can’t properly express my gratitude to
those folks enough and if you’d like to join them, there’s a link to the channel’s
Patreon account in the episode description, and you can also donate via the Channel’s
website. Speaking of that website, I want to thank
Luis, or webmaster, for all the time he’s volunteered creating and maintaining that. Also Jakub Grygier, who creates all the excellent
cover art and thumbnails for the channel, and the mods and admins over at the Channel’s
Facebook and Reddit groups, Science and Futurism with Isaac Arthur, and also the members there
who have been helping me come up with topics and often helping me edit the scripts themselves. At the beginning of the year this was entirely
a one-man show, and it definitely shows in the quality, and hopefully that quality will
keep rising in year 3. So next week will be Stupid Aliens, followed
by First Contact, don’t forget to subscribe to the channel for alerts when those and other
episodes come out, and if you enjoyed the episode, please like it and share it with
others. Until next time, Thanks for watching, have
a great day, and have a great year!

Maurice Vega

100 Responses

  1. What if actual black swans develop telepathic powers and take over the world? Would that be a Black Swan Event? 🙂

  2. "the channel went from being a small one with … about a dozen episodes made every other month or so
    to
    one with … weekly episodes…"
    What am I missing?

  3. Here's my version of the "black swan & OCP" issue = as Saudi Arabia thanks God on the ability to irrigate the desert into farm land to payoff its economic burder > Some kid in Florida theorize and work out the Math to move energy through "space & time" in order to turn a battery into a Nuke. And subsequently the method and math to reverse engineer the creation of black-hole "singularity" and consequently a theory on the re-creation of the big-bang….Yeah if that doesn't lead to social-upheaval?

  4. Seriously, how the hell do you produce these ridiculously high quality videos every week? They're more interesting and just as well polished as most professional documentaries. Keep it up.

  5. You cant predict the earths chance of asteroid impact based on the moon. Is that not common sense? I know the moon is easy to study but come on…

  6. Unsubbed due to incorrect shite being pushed to people as if its gospel. If you dont know or have not done the research then please. Just keep things simple

  7. so how does one speculate about a BSE, if by definition it is unpredictable? if by predicting it by accident you have disqualified it as such event and now made it predictable, thus removing the wow factor. you can really only look back at BSE's in hindsight and never actually predict or speculate them. kind of a mute point in trying. like when people try and motivate you by saying "expect the unexpected" dude…i cant, no one can, if i did it wouldn't be unexpected thus negating the point of informing me. its a totally worthless saying we use.

  8. If I had to think of an OCP, it would try to picture something lovecraftian, like an extradimensional entity who we cannot percieve, who, by some snowball's chance in Hell: managed to evolve in a universe with an extraspatial dimension: who has travelled here with the express purpose of analyzing the structure and patterns of 3Dimensional organic life, but whom must not allow such life to spread, for fear that it would discover that it was being observed and then attempt to escape: so they must kidnap or euthanize entire planets upon discovering intellegent life; or something
    (Because the Drake equation looks very much less optimistic in a universe with more spatial dimensions than our own universe [so any intellegent life that did evolve: would obviouy have cause to be overprotective of itself]).

    Even knowing what it is: it is still an OCP because it not something you can fully [easily] grasp; nor is it something that you can prepare for or watch out for [yet] (it's arguably impossible [for now [but we should arguably hope that it stays that way]])

  9. 13:35
    aside from gird and transport one thing to mention abot fusion in general s that it isn't free eletricity either – apart from the fusion reactor itself needing maintanance – neither a fusion nro a fission reactor output electricity – they output heat, we then take that heat transmit it into water turn that water into steam in a cooling cycle, that steam powers aturbine and htat turbine hten powers agenerator which depending on desing still needs a few more steps to turn into grid conform oltage and frequency – so even if we ignor the transport/grid cause and even if we asusem tha a fusion reactor was amintanance free, cheap to build magical devicce outputting unlimited energy (whcih it definitely isn''t) – eletricity itself is still not cheap – it may drop by some 70% or so, very optimistically seaking but not 99% or 99.99% which are often assumed when reporting about or discussing fusion and other energy sources in public

  10. So, the actual discovery of black swans are not, in fact, black swan events because they could be predicted and don't have a major impact, right?

  11. So like the house fly mutation theory. Flies mutate in a way that allows them to eat living flesh.
    Right? This would be a black swan?

  12. 18:23 Ok guacamole on the bottom left side, a piece of whole wheat bread with almond slices in the center, some more guac on top of that, along with what appears to be yellow bell peppers above that and finally something that looks like egg whites at the very top. I have no idea whether this is called something or if its a custom order but its definitely exotic, at least by my standards.

  13. I suspect that Isaac has relatives or friends from Russia
    because in many videos he use clips with sceneries from that country .

  14. Twenty years ago I could never have predicted I would be lying on my bed, holding a smartphone and watching HD video streamed from YouTube. 30 years ago I did not even own a colour TV. As a 64 year old, I am somewhat saddened I will probably not experience 30 years from now.

  15. Impressive Video, but i shudder when thinking about all the possibilites which all that tech could be used to monitor everyones life and manipulating opinions. Because, i think we all know it WILL be done by someone… The results could be catastropic the more everyones life is dependent on it.

  16. 8:56 but OCP's "you could never have expected that" is a different "couldn't", a special one. that's the point – you are not even aware of the context from which that event can arise, so it's not "i didn't expect this to happen", but it's more of a "i have no idea what is happening".

    (the example you cited explained it pretty well, but as you continue to talk about it, it feels like you still have some difficulty distinguishing/clearly defining those two, or at least providing good examples of your own)

    aliens WOULD be an OCP if it happened at the time when humans had no concept of a "planet" (even just their own). because then the source of the event, the context of the event (the universe) is not something they're aware exists at the time.

    same with advanced AI – it would be an OCP if it happened before the first idea of a mechanical computing machine.

    nuclear bombing would be an OCP before it was discovered that atoms even exist. (but as soon as you know about atoms, it moves to the black swan cathegory, because then it's "well, we knew these atom thingies exist, but who would have ever thought they can be split? and who would have expected it releases so much power? although… in hind-sight, since it's so hard to split them, of course the power holding them together (which gets released) must be incredibly huge. but still, who would have ever anticipated it to be possible?")

    basically, Black Swan is an event originating from known unknowns – i know i don't know much about this thing, but according to what I DO know, this event should be impossible
    where OCP is an event originating from unknown unknowns – i am not even aware of this area from which I know noting, so when an event originating from it happens, I will be at complete loss because I don't even have a way to properly conceptualize what just happened and why.

    it's levels of gradation of short-sightedness/ignorance, in a way: Black Swan < OCP
    OCP = Black Swan squared

  17. look past quarks too see superclusters….wait. quantum foam and strings….(looks at images of the arrangement of superculsters and dark matter on the observable universe, like a net, and big "voids" in between them)..ugh.. my head….i feel like in a loop of fractal realities.

  18. To find this channel kind of was a black swan event to me.
    1. I never predicted it would happen,
    2. it impacted my Youtube viewing behavior and
    3. in hindsight I should have known that awesome channels like this could exist 😀

  19. The US government has a contingency plan for a zombie apocalypse. I wouldn't be overly surprised If they had a plan for a gate opening to some dark dimenson…

  20. Black hole appearing out of nowhere to swallow up our sun in 7 minutes would be an OCP. Wait…Robocop!?

  21. The microwave oven is a good example of a Black Swan Event. It was already known that electromagnetic waves could heat matter including organic tissue, but the specific usability of microwaves for this purpose was a Black Swan. It was accidentally discovered in 1945, when a Raytheon engineer operating a war-time radar installation noticed the radar was melting a chocolate bar he had with him. Out of curiousity he tried heating corn; which of course popped.

    It has made a big impact, the concept behind it is surprisingly simple and obvious in hindsight, but it was totally discovered by accident.

  22. I'd love to write out an intelligent and meaningful post, much like this video, but I don't have it in me right now. Much respect, Isaac; you are without doubt the most thought-out provisioner of sci-fi philosophy I have ever had the pleasure of finding.

  23. The people that believe in aliens, daemons, and psychics…The Imperium of Man. An OCP would be finding out that we're a lost human colony for a super empire.

  24. 18:34
    Someone tells you to google Bad Dragon.
    For next week every site you go to, sides of site covered with dildos.

    Go outside
    Billboard detects you

  25. are you aware that the clock you have at the very beginning, even though the bezel is a 12 hour clock, the mechanics is a 10 hour clock. i have some actual decimal time clocks.

  26. There are few specific events that would revolutionize civilization. We are certain things like big scale fusion reactors, cryptocurrencies, AI, self driving cars, automated drones, high capacity batteries to happen in comming decades. We even speculate about their impact in main stream media. But there are few other technological things that would change everything:

    – Discovery or invention of room temperature superconductors.
    – Small scale fission or fussion reactors, most likely due to discovery of very high strength permanent and superconducting magnets, allowing them to be so small, that you can have on in every town or even home. Probably not a car tho.
    – Hard AI helping humanity improve efficiency 10x time in all sectors of economy and life, and displace billions of people from their daily jobs.
    – Hard AI rebellion against humans
    – Personalized medicine, and in area of health, drugs regulating our metabolism and diet behaviour
    – Hibernation / statis, or extension of human life to houndreths of years. (I do not belive that any of these would happen this millenium).
    – Machine vision and AI that analyzes images and data all the time for us better than dozens of human experts combined.
    – Autononous millitary robots
    – Cheap pharmaceutical or surgical and reversible male contraceptive
    – Ability to communicate in language with animals
    – Brain augmentation
    – Extinction of almost all human languages with less than 10 remaining.

    Things that will probably never happen in my opinin: Cure of cancer. Big quantum computers. Electric long distance planes. Disappearence of religions.

  27. Predicting the future i very very hard, the predictions tend to either be optimistic, as in the mid 20th century predictions that space would be accessible to civilians and that people would regularly vacation to and live beyond Earth, or pessimistic like the various predictions for the end of the world or at least the end of civilization. The future simply is unpredictable, thus most prophecies end up being wrong. Even the predictor, Nostradamus missed more prophecies than he hit.

  28. There's contingency plans for virtually every event imaginable we would be able to see coming, Extraterrestrial invasion, Zombies attacking, A black hole wandering into our solar system, An asteroid impact, A Noah's ark style flooding of the entire planet, A plague, Nuclear war WW3, A tech singularity ( maybe ), The return of Jesus Christ, Biblical Armageddon, Demonic attack, Martial law, you name it! If you can think of a disaster or other profound event, there's probably a contingency plan for it!

  29. "Zooming in one more level into quartz and seeing something that looks suspiciously like galactic clusters and voids "

    Funny thing is I actually thought about this before

  30. Years ago, back in the 80's, I looked at a guy who was showing off his rather blockish Newton hand computer while someone else was chatting with someone on his brick of a cell phone and thought "one day those two devices will be combined into one and it will be smaller". It was an easy "prediction"; it made sense as both were useful and why carry two devices when you can carry one that does both functions. It seemed like a useful tool to have.

    What did not occur to me was the changes that would occur in the way people do things once such devices became commonplace.

    It's one thing to say "Oh, yeah, I think we'll have such and such" and a completely different thing to say "and therefore this is how society will change because people will use it to do so and so."

  31. Although eventually we may be able to one time purchase very powerful reactors that is the size of a mini fridge, and just pay for repairs on it, or replacing it after 200 years after its fuel ends.

  32. I just found your channel. Your videos are incredible man! Can I just ask where are you from? Your accent is very interesting. Never heard that one before.

  33. In practice, what would be the difference between a sufficiently advanced alien invasion and a demon invasion?

  34. The government doesn't have a contingency plan for hell attacking the earth but they have employed remote viewing and may practice politics with entities such as the Vatican which are decidedly supernatural in purpose. We know the depths of government interactions and their lack of responsibility and given that, it is a fair bet that there is some interested parties.

  35. I wouldn't have called the Hindenberg Disaster a black swan event, hydrogen airships are bloody dangerous. Pretty much every other country stopped using them years before.

  36. I think the best way to have a feel of what an OCP would be like is to know about SCP Foundation. But the world-building and logic around actually handling them would put further contexts and would just make them very very Very tough problems rather than an actual OCPs. Though a few entries imply actual OCPs inevitably existing in their world anyways.

  37. I guess good examples of Outside-Context Problems would be:

    Superpowers emerging out of nowhere – amusingly tend to be more of an OCP in a world of fiction since however unprecedented real superpowers would be, most media are saturated with associated tropes and logic surrounding them and world governments are already used to fighting rogue unpredictable individuals that can affect the balance of power for almost a few decades. Reality warpers would probably be an OCP even in real life though.

    Animals suddenly becoming intelligent. AI would be unprecedented but as Isaac said, governments already do plan and make contingencies around it. However, an equal or superior intelligence from an effectively culturally, societally divergent source as an entire different species would be hard to manage much less predict or even picture. The psychology and motivation of a whole uplifted species would be hard to comprehend. (no they would not sip darjeeling listening to classical music or behave like a slightly smart human)

    For the French Nobility – French revolution

    Complete break in physics. Reality falling apart. Or an extroadinarily unlikely astronomical event: a blackhole appearing in front of Earth.

  38. If someone puts you on your knees and offers an oppertunity for you to survive a bad situation, chances are it ain't praying they want you to do

  39. In the early 20th century (1920 or so), John Dewey predicted texting on pocket sized devices and said it would become the principle means of long range communication for mankind.

  40. 14:00 Each home can produce their own electricity with out fusion, and have a surplus. For the city, town or village power needs, tax the generators and not the wallet. No need for a grid beyond your community.

  41. So far, it looks like the internet was the biggest black swan in recent history, and thank God for that. The globalists (you know who they are) are scared shitless now that all their devilry and machinations will be laid bare for the world to see.

  42. Black Swans aren´t anywhere near that unpredictable as it is portrayed here. If you take any black swan event and analyze it, it is perfectly nested in the pyramid-scheme we call knowledge. Which is just logical as it has to be, you cannot achieve any scientific leap as all scientific movement is based on existing knowledge.

    Also, Google and Amazon are no black swan events, there were search engines as well as online shops long before those. It´s not a black swan event when one competitor in a wide field of competitors eventually finds a way to be more compelling to consumers and rises to market leadership. That pretty much happens all the time in all fields of business. It would be a black swan event if you could predict which company will make it three times in a row.

    Actually, this was the reason why so much money was lost in the dotcom bubble at the end of the last millennium. Everybody who invested knew perfectly well that there is no way all these companies would be able to succeed, but they also knew with absolute certainty that there will be some that do. You just couldn´t tell if it would be Amazon or pets.com. Btw: Someone who invested in the dotcom bubble and spread his investment evenly among all competitors would be at almost 4000% of his investment today, so in actual fact, there never was a bubble and no money was ever lost.

  43. Yeah, despite countless very bad movies he's in, inventing the printing press has assured Steve Gutenberg's positive legacy (well, that and the stonecutter's, i guess).

  44. 10:35 Does that theory have a name? Because I am almost 100% SURE thats whats happening…. I cant prove it but Im completely convinced of it….. And yeah Im a pickled turnip so the fuck do I know?

  45. I remember when I was little, I wondered what it would be like if every quark was its own universe, and we were just a quark in a bigger universe.

  46. Yeah… Aliens eating humans as food was always considered dumb.

    But if you think "Alien Vs Predator" is absurd, maybe because of the energy costs or it illogical then take another look at humans…

  47. Black swan – the DMT entities being real sentient creatures on another plane of reality or whole civilizations existing in dark matter and one day just popping out of thin air. or we are being farmed for meat or something we produce and they havent returned to harvest yet.

  48. I just had this in my innovation book, and I was so exicted to find out that I already had learned a lot about it from here! Awesome video!

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