As much as I would like to conclude with a starry-eyed call for placing incentives on averted crises, I cannot do so in good faith. I have been fighting this battle for the better part of 30 years and am underwhelmed by the evidence that human beings as a species are learning or changing. The only individuals and entities that do learn are those that have personally experienced—and endured—the crucible of crisis.

Whether it’s BP, 9/11, or the 2008 financial meltdown, the same syndrome has been at work: The strong personal disincentives for individuals to think beyond their immediate agendas and the cognitive impossibility of imagining the unimaginable.