John L. Casti
Roger D. Jones
Michael J. Pennock
A philosopher who is not taking part in discussions is like a boxer who never goes into the ring.
I wanted to write that my work consists of two parts: of the one which is here, and of everything which I have not written. And precisely this second part is the important one.
Things are much more marvelous than the scientific method allows us to conceive.
The book you are seeing on your screen may look like a normal book; it is not. It is a conversation in which you are a participant. The book does not offer pat answers to hard questions. In fact, it barely even gives definition to hard questions. Rather, this book presents that stage in which science is most challenging and, arguably, most interesting—the period of identifying just what the problems and issues are. That is why we solicit your help in writing this story—the story of extreme events in social systems.
The participants in this book-writing enterprise are independent thinkers who wish to understand the forces impinging on social systems and the systems’ often dramatic and extreme responses to those forces. Extreme events, the sudden and discontinuous response of social systems to these forces, are what we for shorthand term X-Events. X-events We imagine the reader to be a person who wants to intelligently manage his or her actions and behaviors in the midst of an X-event—in short, to manage an organization in chaos. And not only manage, but be a beneficiary of that event. Explicitly, we understand that there are no simple answers to social questions. But but there is at least a gestalt that can help an individual anticipate and manage X-events. The program outlined here is to build the gestalt by total immersion in the topic—by examining the issues from many perspectives.
Here we look at X-events from the following points of view or frames of reference:
- case studies
- academic sociology
- natural analogs
- English literature
- engineering risk management
- mathematical modeling
No one perspective is sufficient to capture the entire picture. But patterns begin to emerge when questions are asked from several points of view. What seems to be emerging is that X-events are a fundamental property of social systems, and that if human progress is to be made it depends intimately on X-events for propelling it forward.
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