Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Lessons & Warnings From MH370 Black Swan Mystery

There are so many levels of lessons which we Malaysians can and should learn from the MH370 mystery.

Official mishandling is not only a Public Relations issue (aside from poor command of English) but one where Malaysian officials have an insufficient understanding of how to approach unknown scenarios with simple probabilistic analysis. The reason I say this is because one of those probable scenarios is a Black Swan event, which I will explain later.

By assigning probabilities to the range of scenarios (in the hypothetical way below) and presenting their investigations in that context, the officials could have gained more credibility instead of creating an atmosphere of confusion in their daily press conferences:

1. Mechanical failure: low probability given the facts (20%?).

2. Pilot error: low probability given the experience of the main pilot (20%?).

3. External sabotage (e.g. missile or laser attack): medium probability but no wreckage causes this scenario to be below 30% but higher than 20%. (e.g. 25%?).

4. Through elimination of the least probable, we arrive at the scenario with the highest likelihood: terrorist hijack: (as a residual of 35%=100%-20%-20%-25%).

The hijack scenario has higher probability because of the way the transponders and the ACARS were shut down at the Malaysia-Vietnam air space border. But what is the motive?

The motive of hijack then can be analysed with various probabilities and as more evidence is collected about the passenger manifest, their backgrounds, relationships, their web search histories and their views about the world. It is only then that we can form a better overall picture and assess which is the most likely motive.

1.   Motive to steal plane for money: 10%

2. Motive to steal plane for conversion for military purposes:10%

3.  Motive to sabotage plane due to the military weapons secrets that Freescale employees possess: 25%

4.   Motive to assassinate the Freescale employees as some of them may have crucial patents that have yet to be approved: 20%.

5. Motive to demand ransom for the kidnap: 5% (no demands after more than a week).

6. Motive to demand for political causes: 5% (none whatsoever after more than a week).

7.  Motive to commit suicide by the pilots/crew/terrorists: 5% (no average sound-thinking person can harbour such intentions especially if it entails the lives of 239 innocent people. Let us not cite the 9/11 event which remains a conspiracy conundrum until today despite the inconclusive 9/11 Commission). 

8.  Motive to use the plane for nefarious purposes such as loading it with bombs and slamming it into a city/building: (20% = 100%-10%-10%-25%-20%-5%-5%).

The last scenario is a Black Swan (totally unprecedented and unpredictable). However, if this scenario turns out to be true, we may face the worst case scenario hinted by one American commentator's use of the word “nefarious purposes.” The impact would be unimaginable.

Personally, if the pilots or crew are involved in foul play, this insane destructive scenario is quite unlikely unless they are hypnotised, drugged or brainwashed into killing machines. A superficial glance at the details of their backgrounds and personalities (family types and liberal minded) would suggest that these people, under normal circumstances, would not be able to carry out such dastardly terrorist acts.

Nonetheless, apart from the fact that we should be sensitive to the welfare of the families of the passengers, investigators need to make these calculations internally so that they not only just "explore all possibilities" but also focus their time and resources on the most probable scenarios. (Investigating the intellectual assets of the Freescale employees could be one of the leads).

Whatever the final outcome (and we pray it will be the best for all concerned), Malaysians and the rest of the world should seriously ask themselves this: what if it happened to me or if my family member was on that plane? Can these calamities start hitting the nations? 

Warning Sign to the Nations

And this leads us to the spiritual perspective. I am deeply convinced the MH370 mystery is a warning to the nations (not only to the nations affected but mainly to Malaysia) that the country has to wake up to the realities of the times we live in. We can no longer afford to be distracted by selfish vested interests, dirty politics, erosion of constitutional rights and yet remain passive in the face of the darkness and chaos that threatens to envelop the nation (as it has in many countries such as Thailand, Turkey, Egypt, Ukraine, etc). 

And it may not be a coincidence that the two countries most affected by the crisis is China and Malaysia, both not exactly the paragons of human liberty and religious freedom.

Why does this event have spiritual implications? As explained to a friend, it is spiritual because God will never allow a calamity of this scale to occur without a hard-hitting reason. It is similar to the time described in the Book of Job when the devil was walking to and fro in the skies and challenged God about the character and inner resilience of God's faithful servant Job. After a series of blunders in his time of tribulation, Job regained his faith and emerged from the crisis with greater strength and wisdom. 

The myth that Malaysia is a disaster-proof country, a safe haven or peaceful refuge has finally been broken by one nightmarish mystery that will challenge our minds for some time. Let us pray and hope that we will come out of this crisis with the resilience and wisdom of Job.

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