Downward counterfactual analysis to uncover black swan events

What if?

Downward counterfactual thinking means reimagining a past event so that it somehow ends worse than it did in reality. This kind of thinking is difficult for people to engage in, but can be useful for planning and preparedness, especially for surprising, low-probability, high-consequence black swan events. We are formalizing a framework to integrate downward counterfactual thinking in risk analysis. This is one step towards extreme resilience to extreme events.

Counterfactual Toolkit

Resources developed in-house to help you get started with counterfactual thinking in risk analysis

Counterfactual Round Table Activity

Next time you are gathered with two or three of your favorite disaster colleagues and experts, grab some post-it notes and try this activity with a past event of your choice. Full directions for the activity are available in the link below.

Counterfactual categories card deck

This visual card deck is used to prompt counterfactual thinking. This was developed to accompany the Counterfactual Round Table Activity.

Counterfactual Black Swans Workshop: August 26-27, 2019

Building a new community of practice

On August 26-27, we hosted the Counterfactual Black Swans Workshop at NTU in Singapore, where we were joined by over two dozen researchers across three continents, spanning multiple fields of study. Through this, we established a new community of practice centered on counterfactual thinking in risk analysis. We look forward to providing updates on the many exciting projects moving forward from this! Read more about the event through the workshop report, post in our blog, and other media spotlights.

Papers, spotlights, and more



Blog posts

Presented at

  • Asia Oceania Geosciences Society Annual Meeting. Uncovering black swan events: consequence-driven seismic risk assessment of critical infrastructure in Singapore. July 29, 2019 in Singapore.

  • Natural Hazards Workshop and Researchers Meeting. In the absence of consequential past events for disaster risk analysis: a counterfactual framework for uncovering black swans. July 14-18, 2019 in Broomfield, CO.

  • European Geosciences Union General Assembly. Consequence-driven risk framework for uncovering black swan events: volcanic ash in Singapore. April 7-10, 2019 in Vienna, Austria.

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Our main collaborators are from the Earth Observatory of Singapore and the Institute of Catastrophe Risk Management at Nanyang Technological University. This project received support from the National Research Foundation of Singapore as part of the Systemic Risk and Resilience Initiative.