Published on [Permalink]
Reading time: 2 minutes

Questioning the Butterfly Effect

In the middle of last week, I realized that it was the anniversary of a many-years-ago event in my life that was a big deal to me. As I have often tended to do over the years, I thought about how my life might have gone differently had this event not happened. My assumption has always been that my life would be very different, that I would be a much different person than I am now.

This time around, though, I found myself wondering if that would really have been the case.

I think we have this idea from books and movies and TV that any seemingly insignificant change to the timeline would result in massive and possibly catastrophic changes we can’t anticipate. Squish a bug as you step out of your time machine in 1837 and you’ll return to a 2022 where the Nazis won World War 2 and there are space colonies on the moon. Stop at a different quickie mart on the way home work in 1997 and you would have set off a long, complex chain of events that would result in never meeting your future spouse.

But I wonder how true that really is. I think maybe we tend to overestimate the degree of free will we have and how varied the opportunities and choices available to us actually are. There are exceptions, of course, but I imagine that for most of us, our lives and circumstances offer a fair amount of buffer zone for radical change.

✍️ Reply by email

✴️ Also on another weblog yet another weblog