Anticipating disaster

Robin Hanson speculates on whether and how much we should insure against and try to prevent disasters.

I think Nassim Taleb (author of the Black Swan) and Daniel Kahneman (prospect theory) would say that the disasters that we are most likely insure ourselves for are the ones that are the least likely to happen, and could leave us even more vulnerable to the real black swans (which we can’t predict anyway).

In other words, trying to prevent disaster (for example, one that would cost a significant portion of GDP) we would spend trillions on and then miss the real problem completely. We simple suck at predicting these sorts of things.

And, if we did get lucky and manage to prevent disaster (the example Taleb uses are laws that could have prevented 9/11) we would never know disaster had been avoided in our version of the multiverse, and all people would see is needless expense.

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