Don't Be The Turkey
Nassim Talem makes the point in his popular book, The Black Swan, that it is human nature to predict the future based on the results of the recent past, no matter how much evidence exists that the recent past may not be a good indicator of what the future holds. The illustration he gives is a turkey on a farm thats wakes everyday to to be fed by the farmer. He comes to believe that the farmer is benevolent and that humans are "looking out for its best interests". He believes this until the day before thanksgiving when he comes to the rapid and startling revelation that his belief system may have wrong.
A recent example is the earthquake in Haiti. It was well known that Haiti was susceptible to earthquakes. Since Haiti had did not have a major earthquake in the recent past its government and citizens planned their lives as if an earthquake wouldn't occur. There is also the question "what could they do about it?". This is a related but different and more grim discussion. For example scientist estimate based on past data that a large asteroid will strike the earth about every 100 million years. The last impact was 65.4 million years ago and wiped out most life on the planet. A smaller asteroid would be pretty darn devastating and these impacts have happen much more frequently (about every 10,000 years). What are we doing to prepare for this? What can we do?
Another recent example is the recent financial crisis. This is probably the reason Nassim's book became so popular. Wall street firms, many business and individuals were making so much money due to the increasing value of housing assets. They thought it would never end. The recent past was a prediction of the future. They used the positive affirmation they received from the paper value of the properties and ignored (and often ridiculed) the contrarian feedback that this growth wasn't sustainable.
There are cases of this every day, and a many of these situations are within our control. There is a personal example that hits home. I was leading a team of consultant for some departments of transportation in the 90's. We saw huge bid set distributions being created and distributed to contractors and subcontractors. When we followed the sets we found that a majority of the documents (whole sets or partial sets) were thrown in the garbage when they arrived. I thought to myself "this is not sustainable".
As the market changes rapidly we need to be looking for clues as to what will be more or less valuable in the future and what are we doing today that might not be sustainable in the future. We need to maximize the profits we make out of the services we have but not come to believe that these profits will continue for ever.