history — any history, from ancient fossils to the civil war — are generally the most aware that the well-known large-scale result might have turned out entirely differently if a few random things had happened differently, or with slightly different timing or sequence. The future is just history that we cannot yet see , created by the same rules and processes which created past history and just as subject to wild variation due to small effects. It is the nature of reality that any particular future is a matter of relative probability, and that the probability changes with all events which occur. The asteroid which ended the era of the dinosaurs and gave mammals their big break owed its timing to a sequence of tiny random events stretching back to the big bang and could have been caused or prevented by the random radioactive decay of a single atom in the deep past. TaaL: Everything you do —and don’t do— alters the relative probability of specific futures and general classes of future events. Some futures that were attainable yesterday are no longer attainable today. Some futures are likelier today than they were yesterday. Some view the future with fear, expecting global heating and biodiversity loss ; others view the future with complacency, seeing a smooth trajectory toward a Star Trek future. Both groups tend to assign greater certainty to their opinions than an actual probability distribution would warrant. We can use science to improve our estimat e of the physical probabilities… but their certainty of occurrence remains largely in our minds. There are moments in the past 100 years of history that demonstrate contingent probability. World War I iterated itself into existence when a single driver made a wrong turn in Sarajevo, bringing an archduke into uncomfortable proximity with an armed foe, and then stalled the car when trying to put it into reverse. This resulted in the sequence of events known as WWI, which resulted in the sequence of events known as WWII, Bretton Woods, the current world order, and so on. The entire shape of world arrangement is thus traceable to a single foot slipping off a clutch pedal, which in turn could be further reduced to the coefficient of friction on that particular pedal and shoe-sole. Another example: in 1962 it was only due to a single person holdout on a Soviet nuclear sub which was being pounded by US depth charges that the sub did not fire its nuclear torpedoes in self-defense and turn the Cuban missile crisis into a full-on global nuclear exchange. On our planet, that guy would have a holiday named after him. His planetary heroism saved your life. You owe him everything. Bet you don’t know his name ( now you do: Vasili Arkhipov ).
Powered by FlippingBook