Precautionary Principle


no hurry, no pause.


Miscellaneous Notes

The precautionary principle (PP) states that if an action or policy has a suspected risk of causing severe harm to the public domain, the action should not be taken in the absence of scientific near-certainty about its safety. Under these conditions, the burden of proof about absence of harm falls on those proposing an action, not those opposing it.

PP is intended to deal with uncertainty and risk in cases where the absence of evidence and the incompleteness of scientific knowledge carries profound implications and in the presence of risks of “black swans”, unforeseen and unforeseeable events of extreme consequence.

Thin Tails from Tinkering, Bottom-Up, Evolution

In nature no individual variation represents a large share of the sum of the variations. Natural boundaries prevent cascading effects from propagating globally. Mass extinctions arise from the rare cases where large impacts (meteorite hits and vulcanism) propagate across the globe through the atmosphere and oceans.

Fat Tails from a Top-Down, Engineered Design

In human made variations the tightly connected global system implies a single deviation will eventually dominate the sum of their effects. Examples include pandemics, invasive species, financial crises and monoculture.


Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Rupert Read, Raphael Douady, Joseph Norman, and Yaneer Bar-Yam (2014). The Precautionary Principle.