Note: This article is based in part on an episode in Castle and the rest on Seth Godin’s book called “Linchpin”, so read carefully and assess for yourself from which angle you wish to look at it.
The Butterfly Effect is this extremely curious scientific theory that tells us that the flapping of a butterfly’s wings in some location could lead to the formation of a tornado far, far away due a series of occurrences that are too long and slightly far-fetched to elaborate upon. However, this theory is the one that gives credence to the concept of a linchpin, the single most important event that if executed could alter all of history. Some instances reflecting the same:
- the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, in Sarajevo on 28 June 1914 leading to the beginning of World War 1
- The fact that Ken Lay was a Christian was the cause of the Enron collapse(explained here:http://www.sal.tkk.fi/publications/pdf-files/rran07.pdf)
- The setting up of the extremely kind and generous pension plan in Greece(done in the hopes of keeping the populace happy-a very valid reason) was the source of the economic collapse that we now see headlining international news
As we see, practically no one could have predicted the catastrophic events that proceeded such small acts(okay the assassination wasn’t small, but relative to a world war with millions of casualties it definitely was), but thanks to them we realise that the smallest of alterations can lead to a huge blip on the time scale that is our lives.Now, how does that matter?
Well consider this: Over 2 billion people live in poverty all over the world, and it might be possible, if we split them into separate demographics in an appropriate manner, to find the linchpin to completely change their fortunes. Why not? The situation is the same, except that the consequences of initiating the butterfly/linchpin effect are only positive.
Then we consider global warming, could it be that destroying one specific company could lead to the avalanche reduction of global emissions? Who knows? How do we predict it?
THAT is the crucial problem in this theory, we cannot in any satisfactory way show that there is this ONE specific event is the one that sets the ball rolling. Statistical/Probabilistic models can only hold so much weight at the end of the day, mainly because being the humans that we are, we’re sure to miss out some crucial factor that we did not foresee. Somehow I am clearly reminded of the concept of psycho-history that Isaac Asimov designed in his books; the concept of predicting the future based on mass decisions now. It fits into the very pattern we are speaking of right now! So maybe as we develop the models in tandem with the development of computers, we will eventually have the ability to compile all the factors and provide a legitimate way to predict the future. Anything is possible… Or is it really?