Unraveling the Butterfly Effect
Our past action inevitably shaped the future outcomes of our lives.
Every conscious and unconscious choice you made will alter your life one way or another.
But how big can the impacts of a small change be in such a complex environment? How far can our present and past actions shape not only our lives but the lives of millions of people?
In this article, we’ll explore the stories behind the famous Butterfly Effect, what it is, how it changed my life and how it’s already changing your life.
The butterfly effect at its essence is the phenomenon whereby a minute localized change in a complex system can have large effects elsewhere.
The concept was developed nearly 50 years ago, by Edward Lorenz, a mathematician and meteorology professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The idea for this concept started with the provocative question he put during the 139th meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science: “ Does the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas?”.
At first, it was used to represent the fact that small causes can have large effects in the domain of meteorology, but it eventually found out its place in technology, science, and even our own lives.
He wanted to illustrate that complex dynamical systems such as the weather forecast, exhibit unpredictable behaviors such that the small alterations of the variables can lead to the unpredictability of the system’s outcomes.
He observed that the relationship of cause-and-effect are too complex to resolve, due to the fact that one small unplanned change can lead to an unexpected result, be it sooner or later.
As Johann Gottlieb Fichte stated in the Vocation of Man:
You could not remove a single grain of sand from its place without thereby changing something throughout all parts of the immeasurable whole
The wrong turn
The beauty of this concept is how many scenarios you can come up if you take one defined scenario and change its initial conditions.
You’re basically simulating different outcomes using different inputs because the Butterfly Effect states that the output of the system will not be proportional to the input it received, which is why it leads to unexpected outcomes.
What if I tell you that World War 1 could have been prevented if a car hadn’t made a wrong turn?
Sounds too far-fetched?
Let’s explore together this highly theorized example of the butterfly effect.
It all started in the sunny morning of 28 June 1914. The sun was shining once again on the great Austro-Hungarian empire.
Francis Ferdinand, the Archduke of Austro-Hungary and his consort, the Duchess of Hohenberg were in a car driving in the streets of Sarajevo, Bosnia, and Herzegovina.
At one point, their car was attacked with a grenade by a group of Serbian nationalists. Luckily they had escaped death, but a few people got wounded by the explosion.
Later that day, Francis, being the kind man he is, decided to visit the wounded people. His driver accidentally made a wrong turn and went into another street.
Coincidentally, on that street was walking Gavrilo Princip, one of the assassins that tried to kill Francis in the morning.
Sadly for Francis, Gavrilo had a gun on him and managed to shot both him and his consort dead.
The tension created by their deaths resulted in Austro-Hungaria declaring war on Gavrilo’s homeland, which was under the protection of the Russian Empire.
Consequently, this led to Germany, Britain, France, and Russia to join the war, thus starting WW1.
So much for the history lesson.
Nevertheless, you can see how one small event changed the fate of the world. It shaped a different outcome for every single person on Earth.
Right time, right place
Even if your decisions might not change the fate of the whole word, it definitely can change your life and the lives of everyone surrounding you.
Looking back, I had dozens of huge butterfly effects and I didn’t notice them until I got to a certain point in life.
That’s because the Butterfly Effect works with the Snowball Effect. One small decision, followed by another one, and so on, will grow bigger and bigger over time.
One of the butterfly effects I experienced was nearly 2 years ago, around the time I started to learn to code.
I used a platform called FreeCodeCamp to learn different coding languages, which also had a community chat.
Destiny, or whatever unknown force of the universe, made me join the chat at the exact time someone there had put a link to a live stream.
The person on that live stream was working on a side-project and the stream itself didn’t have many viewers.
Long story short, I started chatting with that streamer which became my mentor and one of my best friends.
Because I met him at that exact time, it changed my future in so many ways. One of the reasons being was that I would have definitely quit web development if it wasn’t for him.
That decision also leads to other decisions that brought me up to this moment, in which I’m writing this article.
Your life is changing right now
Maybe you’re skeptic about my claim that this article will change your life.
As you’ve seen above, every decision can create every possible and impossible outcome.
Reading this article right now might prevent you from taking another decision, or it might help you take other decisions.
But you don’t have to obsess over every small decision you make.
It’s virtually impossible to foresee what effect that decision will cause. There are too many variables to take into consideration.
No matter how much try, the world we live in is a complex dynamic system which will always have unexpected outcomes.
The least you can do is take a decision that you think is best at the moment as you’re limited by the unforeseen variables of life.