• On Black Elephants

    by  • April 27, 2009 • Flu • 7 Comments

    The Black Elephant is a combination of two common phrases.

    The “elephant sitting in the room” is the thing which everybody knows is important but nobody will talk about. It is a taboo.

    The “black swan” is an extreme or unlikely event which shreds prior risk management strategies.

    A “black elephant” – the phrase came out of an Institute for Collapsonomics meeting with @dougald, @freecloud, @hexayurt, @LloydDavis & @MikeBennet – is an event which is extremely likely and widely predicted by experts, but people attempt to pass it off as a black swan when it finally happens. Usually the experts who had predicted the event – from the economic crisis to pandemic flu – go from being marginalized to being lionized when the problem finally rears its head.

    Right now, our society is littered with black elephants. Can you name yours?

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    Vinay Gupta is a consultant on disaster relief and risk management.


    7 Responses to On Black Elephants

    1. April 27, 2009 at 11:47 am

      The inevitable acquisition and subsequent deployment of a thermonuclear device by religious extremist.

    2. April 27, 2009 at 2:56 pm

      The illusion of scarcity.

    3. April 27, 2009 at 3:01 pm

      I take that back. It’s an elephant, but not a black one.

    4. April 27, 2009 at 5:19 pm

      Did you mean lionized or demonized, by the way? Because the latter certainly seems the more usual outcome – at least in the realm of economics.

    5. April 29, 2010 at 3:26 pm

      The release of “terminator” seed genes into the wild, resulting in the end of agriculture and the mass starvation of billions of people.

    6. EthrDemon
      December 4, 2013 at 9:21 pm

      The collapse of the US natural gas boom

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