WARNING: Beware of Black Jellyfish

In these post normal times, new forms of radical, disruptive change are making themselves known.

WARNING: Beware of Black Jellyfish
Photo by Ned Daniels / Unsplash

By now we are all very much aware that radical change can come out of nowhere and flip the entire world on its head.

Something that nobody (not even experts) had ever even considered possible happening and changing everything; since 2008, we now call this kind of unseen, radical disruptive change a Black Swan.

The 2008 Global Financial Crisis was a good example of a Black Swan.

But wait - the new 'post-normal' animal menagerie doesn't end with swans.

A Black Elephant is a completely predicted and extremely likely event that everyone (experts, professionals, ordinary people) all knew about, and were very well aware of the catastrophic consequences of it happening, but chose to ignore it anyway.

Climate change and the covid-19 pandemic are good examples of Black Elephants.

Now we also have Black Jellyfish - these are small changes that have a far more exponential impact on the world than anyone expected. Because of the complex nature of the world (as well as our global addiction to thinking in a very linear, simplistic way) Black Jellyfish surprise us with the speed and scale of their impact.

An example here is the Cane Toad problem they have in Australia.

Cane Toads were brought to Australia from Hawaii with the idea that they would help to control the cane beetle in sugar cane fields in north Queensland. Only 102 cane toads were brought over to be bred, and 2,400 toads were released in 1935. Today Cane Toads have overrun Australia - destroying indigenous species and costing the government and farmer billions of dollars to try to control.

On the flip side, I wonder what we would then call something which everyone though would be a wonderful solution to a problem, only for it to be a total waste of time and money. A change that we though we had a good, positive prediction for its success, but in practice proved to be useless? Perhaps it's a Lame Duck?