The Butterfly Effect

Round 4: Me VS my rusty brain.

It’s been almost a year since I put up a post on this blog. I have always been a reluctant blogger. I hope this one will be a good comeback post for me. 😛 This write up is about an interesting and thought provoking concept.  As always, I’m open to comments and suggestions. Happy Reading!

Here’s a topic that has managed to intrigue me for a very long time. This concept, an effect rather, has long been explained in books and movies. It is widely known as “The Butterfly Effect” and it explains how seemingly unrelated things are actually related in the universe.  In essence, when a proverbial butterfly flaps its beautiful wings on one continent, a terrible hurricane may result on another. Let me explain. When a butterfly flaps its wings, it causes tiny changes in the atmosphere. This tiny change has a cascading effect on a series of events which lead to a much larger phenomenon such as a hurricane or a tornado. In the scientific world, The Butterfly Effect is explained as ‘Sensitive dependency on initial situations.’ A simpler way to describe it would be ‘Change one thing, change everything.’

I squeezed out a précis from one of my favourite books, “Freakonomics”,  to simplify the concept. Here it is:

“The early 1990s was a time of terror for the average American. The crime rate in the USA had shot sky-high over recent years. Serial killers and teenage gang-bangers bred like lice and struck terror in the hearts of law abiding citizens. Statistically, the crime rate was expected to go further up in the coming years. That is when something strange happened. The crime rate started dropping drastically. Speculations by experts stated economic growth, gun control laws and innovative police strategies as the reason behind the drop. While healthy economic growth and stringent law enforcement did play a role in pulling down the crime rate, the real reason for the drop was, in fact, an abortion that took place two decades ago.

Norma McCorvey was 21 at that time and was in a nightmarish state of life. She was poor, unskilled, uneducated and pregnant. All she wanted was an abortion. But abortions were illegal in Texas and she wanted to legalize it. With the support of other likeminded individuals, Norma filed a lawsuit against state law under the pseudonym “Jane Roe.” This lawsuit would climb the steps of the Supreme Court and would alter the course of history – a fact unknown to Norma at that time. The verdict was eventually ruled in Norma’s favour and abortion was legalised throughout the country. Abortion was now affordable and easily available to countless poor girls who found themselves in unfortunate situations involving pregnancy.

Now, the children normally born to unfortunate women like Norma McCorvey face adverse childhood issues. Poverty, lack of proper education, improper upbringing and absence of a paternal figure are a few to name. They get acquainted with the wrong sort of company at a very young age which causes them to become criminally inclined. When they come of age, these very children form a major chunk of the criminal population. Now because of Norma’s lawsuit, these children were never even born. Hence, when Norma McCorvey proverbially flapped her wings in the 1980s, the crime rate of the entire country faced a hurricane two decades later. This is a classic example of The Butterfly Effect.”

The man to be credited with the coining of the term is Edward Lorenz. As a mathematician and meteorologist, he first used the term to describe changes in weather. However, like everything else, this concept evolved and has ever since edged its way into popular culture, art and literature. Like in the movie, The Butterfly Effect (2004), protagonist Ashton Kutcher is presented with a chance to travel back to a significant moment in his childhood and make one minor change. Not once, but several times. He makes some thoughtful decisions and some impulsive ones. And every single time he returns to the present, he finds that his life has drastically changed. A must watch movie.

So the next time you think a small decision here and there won’t matter in the future … think again. But I know it’s too much to think about. 😀


4 thoughts on “The Butterfly Effect

  1. Nice one.
    We being Humans, usually spend more time thinking about the consequences than the actions.
    Simple funda should be to live in the present. do what makes you happy and keep making those small changes throughout your life. Because one small change can alter the future, you will never know which one will lead to a successful life. 😀

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