Limitations of surprise-free thinking

Other Names:
Limitations of surprise-free methodologies
Inadequacy of methodologies to deal with discontinuities and random events
Human societies each constitute a form of equilibrium. Equilibria are liable to catastrophes when, under special limiting conditions, small inputs may produce very large, often unforeseen, and frequently irreversible outputs. Analysts are hindered by the inadequacy of methodologies to deal with such discontinuities and random events and are usually obliged to make inappropriate assumptions that over a sufficiently long time span such discontinuities and surprises may be either ignored or will average out.

Surprises are by definition beyond the capacity of human capacity to predict. They may surprise as a whole, by the very nature of the events, or in crucial part, by their precise location and timing. Hitherto little known places become symbols for far-reaching actions and policies. Previously obscure individual emerge into prominence to shape human lives.

During the present century, each year has given rise to profound surprises forcing revision of conventional policies based on the best of human thinking.
Surprise-free forecasts are necessary, but insufficient, tools for efforts to improve the management of long-term interactions between development and the environment. By leaving out external shocks, nonlinear responses, and discontinuous behaviour so typical of social and natural systems, surprise free-analysis hinders efforts to interpret a host of not improbable eventualities.
Counter Claim:
The probability of surprises does not preclude the possibility of reasoned policy and planning. Certain leaders have demonstrated the skill to see inevitable trends and to plan ahead. It is not possible to plan for specific surprises, but it is possible to prepare for the unexpected.
Problem Type:
F: Fuzzy exceptional problems
Date of last update
01.01.2000 – 00:00 CET