Black Swan Event: By Far, the Greatest Threat to Civilization – Readyman

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Black Swan Event: By Far, the Greatest Threat to Civilization

Posted on February 10 2019

World War I. The Great Depression. The Collapse of 2008. They were all Black Swans.

EMP attacks, treacherous governments, brutal flus, even sun spots—they all get more Hollywood love than the one type of crisis that has triggered more than half of all collapses: Black Swan Events.

All civilizations end. Every major civilization has eventually imploded. By our calculation, about HALF of all collapses were triggered by weird combinations of long-term stresses plus sudden, unpredicted lightning bolts seemingly from nowhere. Economists call them Black Swan Events. That means: “These Events Are So Weird, We Haven’t Thought Of Them Until Just Now.”

How do you prepare for trigger events nobody has ever considered?


One great way to get your mind around the threat of modern Black Swan Events is to read about them. In both the Black Autumn series (by yours truly and Jeff Kirkham) and the Day After Never series (by Russell Blake), Black Swan Events deliver knockout punches to America. 

The Day After Never, Blood Honor, bears witness to a collapsed America five years after a Black Swan Event unravels civilization. A super flu, like the Swine Flu on steroids, hits simultaneously with an economic meltdown to send the world into an unrecoverable tail spin.

Deftly written and chock-a-block full of modern gun action, The Day After Never, Blood Honor proves that excellent writing and preparedness go together like a hand in glove. It reads like Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, but offers loads of preparedness insight. The main character, Lucas, gets pulled from his quiet, Texan survival retreat into a mysterious and violent crusade against cartels and former death row inmates. The Day After Never delivers an entertaining and educational look into a world dominated by criminals, where combat threatens day and night.

Black Autumn also takes a ride into a Black Swan Event. Two, weird nuclear events combine to shock the energy markets, then a rogue country pushes the button on a cyber attack while everybody’s looking the other way. A group of special forces veterans join up with a wealthy prepper, figuring their families will be safer inside a well-provisioned compound. But the violence of post-collapse America catches even these ultra-prepared survivalists flat-footed when they underestimate their new reality.


Black Swan Events unravel societies just like ours throughout history. In fact, America has been taken to the brink of collapse seven times, and four of those times were arguably Black Swan Events (and three were not.) One of the hallmarks of a Black Swan Event is that ONLY LATER do the contributing factors seem obvious.

  1. American Revolution (Political Rebellion)
  2. American Civil War (Economic Divergence + New Senate Votes + Slavery = Black Swan)
  3. World War One (Imperialism + Assassination of Archduke Ferdinand = Black Swan)
  4. The Great Depression (Stock Market Crash + Failed Banks + Dust Bowl = Black Swan)
  5. World War Two (German/Japanese Imperialism)
  6. Cuban Missile Crisis (War with Russia)
  7. Collapse of 2008 (Mortgage Bubble + Fair Housing + Derivatives = Black Swan)

Just a tidbit for your prep-doubting friends: America has experienced the brink of collapse seven times in 243 years. That’s about one trip to the brink every 35 years. On average, you and I will experience two or three such terrifying moments in our lifetime. Many of us have already experienced two (Cuban Missile Crisis and Collapse of 2008.) There are Americans alive today who have experienced FOUR near collapses. Not strangely, those people are among the most-likely to have canned veggies and bulk food storage stacked in their pantry.


When we think of a collapse, we think of big, convincing events that take the economy down in a predictable manner: nuclear EMP, killer flu, tyrannical takeovers. Human beings have a psychological tendency to believe that things we HAVE WITNESSED are more likely than things we HAVEN’T WITNESSED. It’s called the Availability Fallacy. We know nuclear weapons are around. We’ve seen scary flus. We all know the story of Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin. And, today, we can picture a stock market crash (though nobody pictured it before it happened.) These collapse scenarios appear to be more likely because they already happened and we can imagine them. Black Swan Events can’t be imagined, which is why they don’t factor much in to our thinking. But does that mean they’re less likely? Not if you read history…

What about a super flu along with an economic collapse (Iike Day After Never?) What about terrorist nukes combined with a cyber attack (like Black Autumn?) What if 9/11 had been followed by a massive East Coast hurricane and then a mortgage bubble collapse? That’s exactly how Black Swan Events take civilizations down.

The Roman Empire plugged along, fat and happy for over five hundred years; the largest and most prosperous empire the world had ever seen. Their demise began by hiring crappy leaders and limp military generals, mostly for political gain. Then the Romans began running low on slaves to sustain their fancy lifestyle. Germanic tribes chewed through the weakened legions and eventually sacked Rome. That was all she wrote. Roman Empire meet Black Swan Event.

Preppers prepare for what will happen, not what has already happened. More than half the time, a social collapse will defy our ability to predict it.

Don’t get invested too far down one rabbit hole (like EMP or the flu.) Read books like The Day After Never and Black Autumn to keep your mind open to unexpected scenarios. Study history, and remember that future history will be equally random.

More than anything, stay flexible. Open mindedness is the key to rolling with the punches. Things will be okay if we’re prepared for things to get weird. 

After all, Rome still exists (after a fashion.)

ReadyMen Closed Group


  • Janet: August 23, 2021


  • Charlie L: April 02, 2019

    Of your list of black swan events the two I think best deserve the name were the economic crashes of 29 and 08. In O8 more than 29, because 29 had the steeply rising price of stocks that presaged it which to any economist is a sign of a bubble that could burst. In 08 we really do have a black swan event in that nobody foresaw that the a housing mortgage crisis could threaten the international economy. That was a shocker. WWI was predictable in that the system of alliances then, when added to an old fashioned war between any two states, say Germany and France, could be expected to bring in more states. That it would be global was not so predictable. WWII is laughably not a black swan event. You could see that coming if you were blind and deaf and should not be on this list. The best examples of black swan events I can think of are o8, the Spanish flu, AIDS and 9/11. No seems to have predicted those or at least to have believed what might have been predicted. As for the Civil War, Lincoln’s personality, his obsessiveness, and abilities, were the black swan that no one in the angry decades leading up that war could have foreseen. It’s hard to see how much of a war would have been fought without him running the white house.

  • Steve R: March 15, 2019

    I believe the next true black swan will be the tribulations leading to the second coming of Christ.
    I believe we are in why Jesus called “the time of sorrows.” It APPEARS natural disasters are increasing in severity and frequency, wars and rumors of wars (civil and national), a waxing of offense, and waning of persona! responsibility. Bombastic hate is the norm and morals are out of style. Repent the end is near.

  • echokilohotel: March 12, 2019

    It’s important not to forget that many events are internal affairs. They take years to plan. Media is specifically formulated and released to influence the general public. Interestingly, even many who were, or are currently in the military are also very susceptible to the influence as well. That is the nature of the initial training.

    I read Black Autumn: Travelers (didn’t know that there were others until I finished it), and I enjoyed the story, but I disagree with the cause. I’ve been talking about this stuff for a couple of decades, although since N. Korea became our latest beating boy, the concept has become a bit more focused. The offshore nuke will occur, but like the Twin Towers, it will also be an internal affair. It will be blamed on terrorists, or on a rogue nation (NK), because the common focus will be on some anonymous enemy. The true cause will never cross most people’s minds, and those will probably be the first to die.

    Makes sense that North Korea has been, according to media, building ICBMs, and supposedly has access to plutonium (both are doubtful), because those both work very well in creating the fictional enemy (1984).

  • Skundric: February 21, 2019

    All the events you speak about were orchestrated!

  • Stephen M: February 18, 2019

    Great comment Brian. I would Place the catastrophic events listed in the opening sentence of the post more in keeping with The Gray Rhino. There were plenty of signs that those things were developing but for various reasons the warning signs were ignored. By the way, I highly recommend the book Gray Rhinos to those who are interested in why so many people are always surprised by disasters.

  • Brian Reed: February 18, 2019

    The term “Black Swan” was developed by Nassim Nicholas Taleb to explain:
    The disproportionate role of high-profile, hard-to-predict, and rare events that are beyond the realm of normal expectations in history, science, finance, and technology.
    The non-computability of the probability of the consequential rare events using scientific methods (owing to the very nature of small probabilities).
    The psychological biases that blind people, both individually and collectively, to uncertainty and to a rare event’s massive role in historical affairs.
    It is this combination of unanticipated events coupled with a natural human tendency to assume and expect that “the way things are now are the way they will always be” that makes such Black Swan events so disproportionately devastating. As they are by their very nature difficult if not impossible to foresee, the only thing one can do is to remain very flexible in their thinking and to cultivate an intentional conscious psychological willingness to see events as they really ARE, rather than what one might wish them to BE. This is how some Jews were able to flee Nazi Germany before it was too late, whereas others were simply unable to grasp this new and wholly unforeseen reality until it was too late for them to leave.

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