How well can catastrophes be predicted?

This 2015 study found a way of modeling catastrophic shifts that smoothed the processes with selectively introduced randomness:

“Most computer models created for the purpose of predicting catastrophes are based on deterministic math—that is, they assume a perfect world where nothing is random. That approach cannot work in the real world of course, because real catastrophes quite often have several contributing factors that are random in nature.

In real life, such events exhibit another common trait of catastrophes, a group of rapid transitions that come about due to a small change in a system.”

If this study’s findings were correct, it would seem that people who put together models that used deterministic algorithms to predict catastrophes may have been just expressing their beliefs instead of assessing reality.

There apparently are many researchers whose models incorporate catastrophes. A search on PNAS.org for “catastrophic” shows over 100 studies published since the beginning of last year.


In a related question: Does everything happen for a reason?

  • If randomness is included as a reason, maybe things do.
  • If randomness is excluded, then we’re back to beliefs instead of reality.

In perhaps an unrelated question: Can catastrophes be predictably avoided in our personal lives?

  • Maybe most of them can, if we can eliminate sources of potential harm.
  • Probably not entirely avoided, though, because of the randomness factor.

It’s difficult to have a balanced degree of concern about future harm. Here’s a view from Dr. Arthur Janov in his Primal Healing book p. 70:

“Worrying is not a problem, it is the symptom of something that is occurring physiologically within the brain—what causes the worrying is the problem.

The constant worry is anticipating catastrophe, but what we don’t realize is that the catastrophe already has happened; we simply have no access to it.

We are actually worried about the past, not the future.”

http://www.pnas.org/content/112/15/E1828.full “Eluding catastrophic shifts”

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