I saw an article on rogue waves not too long ago. And it really inspired me visually to think about how we compound upon each other.
Wikipedia describes rogue waves:
Rogue waves (also known as freak waves, monster waves, killer waves, and extreme waves) are relatively large and spontaneous ocean surface waves that are a threat even to large ships and ocean liners. In oceanography, they are more precisely defined as waves whose height is more than twice the significant wave height (SWH), which is itself defined as the mean of the largest third of waves in a wave record. Therefore rogue waves are not necessarily the biggest waves found at sea; they are, rather, surprisingly large waves for a given sea state.
We have some rogue waves amplifying trends. As Taleb says, we live ever more in a land of extremistan (Black Swan).
Let me explain a bit more about Rogue Waves before saying why I appreciate the metaphor so much.
In this LiveScience article, Choi describes the formation of rogue waves:
Normally a large wave breaks up into smaller and smaller waves over time, until the viscosity of a fluid damps out these small waves. Now the scientists demonstrate the opposite can happen in fluids — tiny waves can concentrate together to become abnormally large waves “that emerge surprisingly quickly,” McClintock told LiveScience.
Tiny waves, you and me, can concentrate, resulting in an unexpected giant wave. This is more than you and I adding up. This is a shocking single large event. This is not really a tipping point, where the system reaches some threshold and changes state.
What I appreciate about this as a metaphor is the thought of the consolidation of forces. It helps us grasp at something that I feel is crashing in on us. A wave in one system is coming together with a wave in another overlapping system, compounded by another wave in another related system resulting in a freak wave. Will these waves be forces of good? Will there be waves of destruction that compound too? I think yes to both.
The wave of climate change meets the waves of peak oil and financial crisis and consumerism. Boom. The wave of awakening-to-purpose compounds with social enterprise and social entrepreneurship, microfinance, spend-down philanthropy, and healthcare innovations. These are choppy waters. How these waves will interact is anyone’s guess. Which will amplify another? Which will deflect or reduce another? Will there be smooth waters ahead? Do we return to regular waves and patterns? Do we get a rogue wave? And does that change us?