Sunday, June 06, 2010

The Ugly Black Swan

A friend who is also statistically literate and who's been connected with quality issues (as a fixer, not a causer) for a couple of decades mentions that the Gulf oil problem is a "black swan."

And, as one should expect, that we were 'fooled by randomness;' that is, that the event was a statistical outlier, but appears to be within probability, when it is NOT. And by "outlier" we mean something that wasn't even in the Venn diagram circles.

Thus, the event is not easily "curable," because there is no plan for "black swans." That's the definition of the term.

Kinda like Bear and Lehmann going down. Black swans to the REST of the world, anyway.

Well. There's a hatload of testimony, witness accounts, (etc.) yet to be heard and revealed. It's possible that BP and its rig-operator were hit with a black(ened) swan.

But if it emerges that BP was short-cutting....

7 comments:

j. strupp said...

Still giving BP every benefit of the doubt I see. How long you gonna sit around and dig for excuses for these guys dadster? Empathy has never been your thing. Why the sudden soft spot for these assholes?

Dad29 said...

Perhaps you didn't read the linked article. I did. There's a lot of counter-argumentation therein, and I saw some of that a week ago.

At this point BP has promised to pay for damages to businesses and individuals incurred b/c of the incident.

You'd like what? Executions?

OK. When I get to execute FedGov principals for taking the US into bankruptcy, YOU get to execute BP officials.

Deekaman said...

It appears the rig was in the process of being turned over from construction (Transocean) to Operations (BP). Having been a "Startup Engineer" in another life, I can tell you that it can be a little chaotic. That said, it looks like there was a failure of procedural compliance, a failure of oversight and a failure to forsee what could happen.

I'm not at all convinced this is a "Black Swan" event.

Even so, let's worry about that when the leak is stopped and the spill is cleaned up.

neomom said...

Why isn't anyone complaining as vigorously about the government oversight folks that were corrupt in accepting bribes and negligent in their duties?

Are they not just as culpable if this does turn out to be criminal negligence?

And why no harsh words for TransOcean? It was their rig after all.

John Foust said...

Quick summary of Black swan theory says 1) the event is a surprise (to the observer), 2) the event has a major impact, 3) after the fact, the event is rationalized by hindsight, as if it had been expected. Given that platform blow-outs and tankers crashing have occurred before, given the safety measures in place that aim to prevent them, I don't see how this qualifies.

J. Strupp said...

Agree with Foust. You might want to go back and read Taleb there Dadster.

And BP's "egregious OSHA violations" outnumber that rest of the oil industry combined by a ratio of 760 violations to 1. This track record doesn't disprove a Black Swan event but it's difficult for me to believe that this oil spill was not simply an accident waiting to happen, considering that horrendous performance.

neomom said...

Strupp - the rig was owned/operated by TransOcean. Why no harsh words for them? Wouldn't their OSHA recordables be a factor here as well?

Also no comment on the fact that there WAS a plan developed in 1994 by NOAA, but Clinton, Bush, and Obama all declined to put it in place. That would be 8 years each of D/R failure.