Strategic Futurists; Value Systems Specialists


Terrorism the Games wild card

Monday 1 February 2010

In a recent article in The Age, Clive Williams of Macquarie University's Centre for Policing, Intelligence and Counter Terrorism suggested that athletes booked in to attend the Commonwealth games in India need to consider a terrorist attack as a potential wildcard. Whilst an interesting perspective, I'd like to suggest that a potential terrorist attack at the Commonwealth Games does not fit the true criteria of a 'Wildcard' event. In the true sense of Wildcard events, a terrorist attack on the games seems far more likely than not likely.

John Petersen of The Arlington Institute in the United States provides perhaps the clearest or most widely adopted definition of a Wildcard event: 'A low probability, high impact event that would severely disrupt the human condition'.

In other words, the event would be a major disruption BUT (and here's the thing about Wildcards) the probability of the event occuring is extremely small.

Which is why I differ from Clive Williams' assessment.  The track record in the dusty part of Asia suggests that interpreting a terrorist attack on athletes in India as a Wildcard (i.e 'highly unlikely), downgrades significantly the potential of such an event.  Rather, it is more likely that the signals we can see emerging on the subcontinent suggest that a Cascading Discontinuity Set (CDS) is the likely outcome - a series of smaller, ongoing events that lead to a Wildcard like outcome - severely impacting the human condition.  The recent pattern in and around India would upgrade a terrorist attack during or on the games significantly.

And athletes really do need to consider the potential - just doing so understanding that the possible terrorist event fits more in the 'likely' than 'highly unlikely' camp.  Sad but true

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