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What is an Outside Context Problem?

 , updated on January 15, 2023
An outside context problem is a large scale problem that is beyond the imagination of a society, organization or individual before it suddenly happens. The classic example is an isolated island with primitive technology that suddenly encounters a more advanced civilization.
It order to be considered an outside context problem, a situation needs to be completely beyond the imagination. For example, humans often imagine that we might someday encounter extraterrestrials, so this wouldn't count unless such aliens have features that are beyond our current imagination.
Historically, examples of outside context problems are reasonably common. Environmental problems such as global warming often aren't recognized or imagined until they have been underway for decades.
Overview: Outside Context Problem
TypeRisk
DefinitionA large problem that is beyond the imagination until it happens.
NotesOutside context problems are a class of difficult to manage risks. However, strategies such as resilience or the precautionary principle may manage some outside context problems, whatever they may be.
Attributed toIain M. Banks
Related ConceptsSustainability
Precautionary Principle
Sustainable Design
Existential Risk

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