Sheekha Singh

Writer, Technologist & Podcast Host

How COVID-19 reminds us about the importance of Black Swan events in IT

It was February 2015 and I was a MIS Masters student in Omaha working on an independent study on the literature related to expert systems and medical diagnosis: A project management approach. As I was reading thesis and articles written on this topic, I realized that there wasn’t much information or real time evidence that anyone had actually used Expert Systems as a precaution because human nature is to live in denial that anything of this sort could ever occur.

What I mean is that expert systems were never taken seriously in project management back then especially for risk mitigation when black swan events occurred. Black Swan events are those rare unexpected occurrences that cannot be controlled by human nature. An example would be Tsunami, Earthquakes and/or Virus outbreaks like we are witnessing now. One minute you are planning your next vacation and the next minute you are sitting in front of your computer having happy hours with your colleagues virtually.

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Source: Google Images

I will not bore you with the details of my independent study, but I will certainly point out the importance of being prepared for black swan events as Project managers and as any IT professional in general. Feel free to google more about expert systems, artificial intelligence and black swan events. Technology has advanced, agreed, but there have been and there will be unforeseen events such as now and risk mitigation plans must be in place for any software project. Five years ago, as I was submitting my research paper on Expert systems in healthcare, I never would have thought that I would get to witness one 5 years later.

Black Swan events are rare, but they cause great havoc to not only information systems but every other industry as well. An expert system is a piece of software that is programmed using artificial intelligence techniques. “The term expert system refers to computer programs that apply substantial knowledge of specific areas of expertise to the problem-solving process”. Knowledge cannot be defined easily and is gained through experience. Expert systems attempt to model some aspect of human reasoning within a specific domain of knowledge, relying on human experts. These experts have several years of experience in a particular area. They know the probability of success, for a particular decision and its result in their respective field of expertise.

A standard definition of an expert system is not easy to articulate. A survey of more than 80 books and 200 published papers in journals revealed a variety of definitions. A definition that represents the overall idea of an expert system according to these papers and books is as follows: “An expert system consists of computer software programs that emulate or clone the reasoning of a human expert in a problem domain”. Expert systems can deliver quantitative information and interpreting qualitative derived values. They process active factual knowledge.

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Source:Vector Stock Images.

It is human tendency to not act until the problem is our own. Risk mitigation plays a major role in every sector. You could’ve thought that you work for an esteemed IT organization and could never be affected with hurricanes, tsunami or any black swan event for that matter, but the question is you are now and as a software professional, were you aware of the risk mitigation processes for black swan events? Were you even aware of black swan events and how to handle those as managers, stakeholders or even a software engineer? A project requires many factors to be successful but mitigating risk in my opinion should now be considered the topmost priority.

-Sheekha Singh.
InExAcT as always.

Like what you read? Share, like, and comment. All opinions expressed are my own and they do not reflect the opinions of any of my current organizations.

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