Downward counterfactual analysis to uncover black swan events
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.
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.
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
Yolanda C. Lin, Susanna Jenkins, Jun Rui Chow, Sebastien Biass, Gordon Woo, and David Lallemant. Modeling downward counterfactual events: Unrealized disasters and why they matter. Frontiers in Earth Science, 8:443, November 2020
Yolanda C. Lin, David Lallemant, and Susanna Jenkins. Counterfactual black swans workshop report. Workshop Report, Asian School of the Environment at Nanyang Technological University, 2019.
Yolanda C. Lin. Counterfactual Black Swans Workshop, Disaster Analytics for Society Lab @ NTU. September 2019.
Yolanda C. Lin. What might have been: counterfactual thinking in risk analysis. Earthquake Engineering Research Institute: Younger Members Committee. January 2020.
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.
The Straits Times: Singapore safe from typhoons? One struck just 50km off island. September 17, 2019.
The Risk Insight Newsletter: Using Counterfactual Risk Analysis. August 2019.
Earth Observatory of Singapore Blog: Predicting Black Swan Catastrophes by Re-Imagining the Past. September 17, 2019
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.