Low-probability High-impact Events Have a Dominant role in History
In foresight research, "wild cards" refer to low-probability, high-impact events.
Arguably the best known work in Wild Cards comes from John Petersen author of 'Out of The Blue - How to Anticipate Big Future Surprises'. Petersen's book articulates a series of events that due to their likelihood to surprise and potential for impact might be considered 'Wildcards'. He defines Wild Cards as 'Low Probability, High Impact events that, were they to occur, would severely impact the human condition'
The idea is similar to the Black swan theory described by Nassim Nicholas Taleb in his 2007 book The Black Swan. the "Black Swan" theory (capitalized) refers only to events of large consequence and their dominant role in history. Taleb regards almost all major scientific discoveries, historical events, and artistic accomplishments as "black swans" — undirected and unpredicted. Taleb's Black Swan has a central and unique attribute: the high impact. His claim is that almost all consequential events in history come from the unexpected—while humans convince themselves that these events are explainable in hindsight (bias).
Was It a Wild Card or Just Our Blindness to Gradual Change?
Elina Hiltunen Finland Futures Research Centre
Journal of Futures Studies, November 2006, 11(2): 61 - 74
Can wild cards be anticipated?
Mendonça et al. (2004) and Petersen (1999) also very clearly announce that signals of wild cards,
most of the time, are available. Petersen (1999) calls these signals early warnings or
early indicators, whereas Mendonça et al.(2004) calls them weak signals.
The only thing we can do about anticipating wild cards is to try to look below the noise level
(Coffman 1997b) in order to spot the weak signals. This can be done, for example, by
using effective environmental scanning systems and focusing on extraordinary sources
of information, like scanning the movements of minorities and activists of the society.