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In distributed, decentralized, relatively unconnected Mediocristan – the world from which humans evolved – we could relatively safely ignore the effect of outliers, aka rare events, on the whole of civilization.

But in heavily networked, interconnected, emergent Extremistan – our modern world of the past ~100 years or so – we can no longer afford to underestimate either the chance of occurrence nor the degree of effect that outliers have on our society.  Doing so results in the financial crisis of 2007/2008, or the gross lack of psychological, social, and governmental preparedness for “surprise” events like 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina.

Much of our current science attempts to describe and predict reality using Platonic methods and Gaussian models, and in some areas, such as physics and other “hard” sciences, that succeeds marvelously.  But in other areas, such as economics, finance, and perhaps epidemiology, such methods entice us to ignore un-ignorable outliers, at our peril.

The fields comprising Nonlinear Systems have made strides in rectifying this.  But due to the nature of randomness, they may not in the foreseeable future provide a reliable predictive framework for the modern world.  We shall instead have to swallow our pride and rely on descriptive, qualitative frameworks.

However, there is one computer potentially capable of best addressing this monumental problem – the aggregate of all humanity – but it is an evolutionary computer whose code has not, on the whole, kept pace with the transition of its environment from Mediocristan to Extremistan.  That computer needs reprogramming.  Counterintuitive and difficult, it is nevertheless incumbent upon each individual to reprogram ourselves – to develop an intuitive, post-Gaussian, non-ludic, aplatonic sense of the world.  This site attempts to do just that, at least for the authors, and hopefully for its gracious guests as well.

An 8th grade history teacher once taught his students to use the notation BGO (Blinding Glimpse of the Obvious) in lieu of a highlighter in their notes.  We suspect that one day the ideas of Nassim Nicolas Taleb will be generally considered a BGO, and people will look back at us and wonder why it took those silly people so long to get it (all the while failing to get something equally self-evident that their successors will laugh at them about too).

As amateur empirical skeptics, we tend to phrase many of our thoughts as questions rather than as assertions, a habit we hope never to outgrow.  We welcome all comment, correction, and criticism from anyone, especially from those we may criticize, and from other more erudite fellow travelers and co-conspirators.  Just keep it civil, open-minded, elegant, aesthetic, and mischievous.

Welcome to our node.

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