Covid-19 is a Black Swan

I see lots of comments here in the Forum to the effect that Covid-19 could have been predicted and we could have been better prepared for it, but nearly all such commentary is, in my view, irrational and a waste of time.

In reality, black swans are always a surprise. About the only thing you can say about them as a generalized rule is that they are certain to happen from time to time, that major impacts will result, and that the only way to prepare for them is to be prepared for everything and anything (that is, to become habitually resilient and adaptive).

When you are in the midst of a black swan event, the challenge is change your focus to see what isn’t working now so that you can fix it immediately. The alternative is to indulge in hindsight, which isn’t very useful in facing present realities.

If you want to pull your weight in the current crisis, try to see it for what it is, not what you imagine it to be.

22 thoughts on “Covid-19 is a Black Swan

  1. …”all such commentary is, in my view, irrational and a waste of time.”

    That is because you refuse to believe anything any one else has said. You live in your bubble and the air is getting thick.

    OK, MAYBE it couldn’t be to the minute predicted. But how many different preparation plans were run during the Obama administration, including AFTER action events to be better prepared for the next one? Or what did the incoming Trump administration do with the information provided during transition to be better prepared for the next one? And the DOD report, that you so offhandedly poo-pooed as a nothing burger, as if the buck stops with NORTHCOM?

    Sorry, Mr. Roberts. But the palm tree still stands and Ensign Pulver still doesn’t understand how to pitch it over the side.

    And if you would open your mind and see the current situation for what the rest of the real world does, maybe then you will be pulling your weight.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “ The disproportionate role of high-profile, hard-to-predict, and rare events that are beyond the realm of normal expectations in history, science, finance, and technology.”

    The Coronavirus was not a rare event. There have been many deadly virus epidemic and pandemics in just the last couple of decades. Certainly not beyond normal expectations by any means.

    The unpredictability is not so much that they don’t happen, just that the timing is tough to nail down.

    Yet there are a few points that I think are important.

    First, there have been innumerable warnings going back decades that the greatest threat to our lives and our economy is a major pandemic. Not war, not terror, not nuclear annihilation but diseases gone rampant.

    Next, the warnings have been repeated more and more often as we approached this last few months. Particularly from 2015 forward. The DOD paper was in the first days of this administration. Pointing out not just the health dangers, but the supply deficiencies and economic impacts.

    HHS warned of depleted supplies in at least 2018.

    Now we know Navarro warned the White House in January of the possible scope of the growing pandemic in China.

    So this was no Black Swan. It was predicted, it was warned about and we knew our supplies were down.

    The refusal by this administration to act quickly and prudently is extracting a high cost now. The China travel restriction was a joke. And forcing Americans to compete against one another for medical supplies is so abhorrent that it defies even a modicum of decent behavior.

    On second thought, there might just be a Black Swan after all.

    His name is Donald Trump. The pandemic was predicted. No one could predict the disastrous response by a president of the United States.


    Liked by 1 person

      1. No.

        But that is irrelevant.

        If you bought a house with faulty wiring, and three years later it burns down, you are at fault.

        Particularly if you knew the wiring was bad and did nothing.

        The military report described exactly what the problem would be.

        And SNS was discussed with Trump’s own HHS. It was no secret.

        Trump prides himself on rebuilding the military.

        Rebuilding the SNS would be a rounding error.

        No excuses.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. @Roberts

    Your “analysis” says this pandemic is a “black swan” event totally unforeseeable. The obvious agenda behind this “analysis” is that the criticism of Trump’s massive malfeasance in the face of this event is just not fair. Even as he brags that he knew it was a pandemic before just about everyone.

    Too bad your “analysis” is completely lame. This is not a “black swan” event. In the last century there have been multiple similar events. In recent memory of those alive now we have had the threat of an Ebola pandemic, the H1N1 pandemic not to mention the barely contained SARS and MERS. Based on being conscious and aware of history scientists, doctors, and yes, military planners have warned of exactly what we are experiencing now.

    What really needs to change if we are to save lives is ANYONE paying any attention to ANYTHING Donald Trump has to say. If he was not such a heinous jerk he would stop his ludicrous daily political pep rallies and let the scientists lead the effort and speak for the government.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. @Green, Rothman and Murphy

    None of you who is pretending to be in possession of superior knowledge today was expecting a pandemic four months ago or advocating for preparedness. It is only now that we have a problem that the issue takes up space in your thinking and of course you are claiming that we should have known and done better.

    This is what happens with black swans, and to give the event a name is why I posted, drawing attention to it.

    Black swans are in fact predictable (this one was predicted). If you think my post was intended to say they are not, then you are missing the point.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “ In reality, black swans are always a surprise.”

      Surprise would certainly be the reason we call them unpredictable.

      Forget the idea that pretending we have superior knowledge. It wasn’t until the epidemic in China made the news that I knew about it. The administration got the call from the Chinese CDC on January 3, so they knew then it was serious.

      Knowing today that was the case, along with staff raising alarms within a few weeks, closed door hearings with Congress at that time also, it was obvious that the administration was doing its best to play this down despite information to the contrary.

      Then admission that Trump knew it was a pandemic but did nothing, that is inexcusable.

      My access to the truth was the media. And the media was savaged every night by Trump and his propaganda goons.

      So I would say that the administration created the Black Swan when such was entirely unnecessary. The markets crashed long before the administration even acknowledged we had a big problem. And the insult on top of that was the administration not even trying to check our supplies despite urgent alarms by HHS for years causing Americans to bid against Americans for lifesaving equipment.

      And it did so for partisan political purposes and to destroy the Democrats in an election year.

      Shameful behavior. Criminal really, no matter how you parse it.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. You and Paul are really smart with the benefit of hindsight, but I can’t remember a pandemic being mentioned here, or in the Pilot forums, other than when Paul called me a racist for suggesting banning travel from central Africa during the Ebola outbreak.

        If you can show me that you were worried about this before it happened, then do so, otherwise, you and Paul and the others are just “Texas Sharpshooters.”


        1. @ Tabor
          But but but

          You prove it all the time.

          You say Birtherism is not racist. Ha!

          You were for banning travel with Africa when the best science was that the ban would do more harm than good.

          You constantly deny we have a gun problem because most of the people killed are non-white.

          You want to call this the “Murdering, lying Chinese virus” and even suggest nuking China based on a bullshit timeline. H1N1 originated in America. Did you want to call that the “American virus?”

          Here is news for you, none of us were the beneficiary of top level intelligence and science briefings in January. You know the ones that convinced GOP Senators to sell out their holdings while reassuring the public. Trump got that information and ignored it and lied about for stupid political and probably personal financial reasons.

          Liked by 2 people

        2. First of all, I was not privy to the information Trump had. I never heard of the SNS. I never saw the military report. I didn’t have Azar press the urgency of replenishment to me.

          All this had to be investigated out piece by piece by the “fake news” media. Trump kept it all so secret from us by phony reassurances of “we have it all under control”. “The media and Democrats are creating a political hoax.” FOX and its cohorts echoed a savage attack on truth.

          Hard for me to be worried then. Even though I, and most people, had heard from lots of sources that pandemics were a danger. We had lived through Swine, SARS, Ebola, etc. But government seemed to do a good job. And it did for the most part.

          So it was pretty easy to assume our administration would do their job and handle a pandemic.

          The problem is not in our debating this here. The problem is a failure for a faster response and telling the truth when they knew how serious it was.

          They knew it, bragged about knowing it, and did nothing. A useless travel restriction that did squat except allow at least 40,000 more travelers from China with practically no screening. So nothing until Trump just couldn’t lie anymore.

          And forcing Americans to bid against Americans for needed lifesaving supplies is criminal.

          So now I am worried. And hopefully that worry will translate into an election to find an administration that cares about doing its job.

          Liked by 3 people

      2. RE: “Surprise would certainly be the reason we call them unpredictable.”

        You might think so, but that in fact is the essence of your mistake. People are often surprised by predictable things. An example would be winning the lottery. You can calculate the odds with extreme precision, but winning will surprise you anyway.

        You should read the Wikipedia article I provided. You are wasting your time trying to blame the administration for Covid-19. Black swans are a fact of life.


        1. I am not blaming the administration, or the Chinese for that matter, for COVID-19.

          What I do take it to task for is the response and preparation.

          Considering the intelligence, the warnings, the responsibilities, our wealth and our economic strength, there is no reason we should be fumbling around, shooting from the hip, sending mixed messages. Everyday there is new evidence that the administration knew a lot more than they let on. And this has been going on for 3 years.

          This would be true for any administration.

          A really chilling moment was Trump’s lashing out at his IG for submitting a report based on surveying 300 hospitals that showed the supply and testing issues had not been resolved. this is a glaring example of misplaced priorities. Denial is not a viable solution.

          The Black Swan is not the pandemic. It is the unexpected lack of preparedness, slapdash response, the false information, the delays. In other words, who knew our administration could be so incompetent. That is the surprise.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. @Len

            I agree, the President lashing out at a dedicated professional for reporting on the current state of reality and in a way that was not in the least critical of Trump simply reinforces the fact that he is not the person we need in that office in this or any other crisis.

            Liked by 1 person

    2. @Roberts

      We whom you criticize were not privy to the same information that Trump received and lied about from January onward. That is the point. He knew and did nothing. And to this day continues to lie through his teeth about the reality. And grossly politicize his supposed public service briefings.

      As for your muddled use of the “black swan” metaphor . . . Laughable as you always are when your gibberish is called out. Now you say “Black swans are predictable…”. Earlier you said “Black swans are always a surprise.”

      “Laughable” is about as kind as it is possible to be for such effing nonsense.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. RE: “Now you say ‘Black swans are predictable…’. Earlier you said ‘Black swans are always a surprise.'”

        Yes, I did. You might have noticed, because I did, that predictable events often surprise people. To an extent, that’s the very reason for my post. But apparently you missed that part.


        1. …”you missed that part.”…

          Its pretty easy for us to see you talk out of both sides of your mouth. You are reknowned for it here.

          As far as Murphy, Len and myself having alleged superior knowledge, that is ridiculous. If we had access to the same information as Mr. Trump, instead of ignoring it the way he did, maybe we would have acted on it, not downplayed the potential severity of it, and actually followed the recommendations of those we appointed. We also would have read the material, asked questions about it and found the best way to be prepared and react to it.

          Your attempt to divert the conversation to us is ignorant on its face, and you ignore the fact that Trump dropped the ball and still hasn’t figured out how to pick it up.

          Liked by 2 people

        2. @Roberts

          Yes, it is predictable that there will be surprises. Your post was nothing like you now spin. The gist of it was the same old Trump dodge – “Nobody knew that [You name it here].” When in fact lots of people knew and Trump himself brags about knowing before anyone else.

          Really, your constantly making excuses for this malevolent dunce leads you into extreme absurdities almost very day. Look at the current President with anything like the same critical eye that you, Tabor and others looked at President Obama and maybe, just maybe, you will see what the problem is.

          Or not.

          Liked by 2 people

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