I have been thinking a lot recently about everyday events that occur- and how they all link together. Or do they? Does a person or an event change the future?
Does big data explain – and predict- randomness? Can we??? Is it the job of data science to shape the future?
A car pulls out in traffic, and cuts off another car, causing 2nd car to slam on his brakes. The car behind him hits his brakes to avoid collision, and behind him a little less so (time and distance spaced to make it less ‘crisis’) But a 4th car was not watching, and swerved into oncoming lane and hit an oncoming car. Which random event caused what?
In chess there are exactly 20 opening moves, and turn 2 equally 20. So at the start of player 1, turn 2, one of 400 scenarios has happened. 19 more possible moves (or reactions at this point) and 19 for Player 2 means at the end of 2 full turns, there are almost 145,000 possible board layouts. Seemingly random? Or action-reaction/cause and effect perhaps? And more importantly, Is there a difference?
As Scott Adams postulated, are we all just moist robots? Is free will an illusion?
When I meet a new person, if I choose to just dismiss and say “Hey, how are ya” and walk off, versus having a conversation, engaging with that person, how does that affect future outcomes? Was that the person who will have an impact later in your life? Or would it have been?
Social Media makes these engagements far more common. If you accept that LinkedIn contact, is that a person who will give your company a huge game-changing order down the road? Or will you hire them, and they develop a new software/process/widget that forever changes the industry?
What if Jobs hadn’t met Wos? Or if Paul Allen’s parents had moved out of town, and he never met Bill Gates? (or even more random, if Allen hadn’t read about the Altair 8800 Microcomputer in Popular Electronics and suggested they could program a basic interpreter for it? He read Sports Illustrated that day instead. No Microsoft? No software revolution? )
Malcolm Gladwell tried to explain some of these are right-place/right-time in the book ‘Outliers’- but I don’t necessarily agree that they are explained away.
We hear about a butterfly flapping its wings in Africa and causing a hurricane. I think there a million random occurrences per day. Or are there none, and they’re all pre-determined, like the 145K moves in the first 2 turns at chess.
If I had not decided to change jobs in 1999 to a completely different field, where would I have ended up? And the people I met along the path have had some affect as well, like the steering currents of wind and water on the hurricane.
In Summer of 94, I owned a pool service company in New England. For the winter, a buddy suggested I work with him at a part time job. If I wasn’t in that job in 1995, I wouldn’t have moved West. So I wouldn’t have started new role in 99. Or this new position in 2006. Or this website in 2016. So a buddy hooked me up with a simple part-time job for the winter, and set off a chain? Or was it all unrelated, and just one of the 145,000 outcomes in the first 2 moves.
“You can choose a ready guide in some celestial voice
If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice
You can choose from phantom fears and kindness that can kill
I will choose a path that’s clear, I will choose freewill” – Rush