Monday, April 28, 2008


Old Guy: It's a lovely day, a day to be remembered.

Young Guy: I'm glad.

Old Guy: We've altered the course of fate, like a grain of sand that jams the works.

Old Guy: You must take me for an old nut who talks a lot of rot.

Young Guy: Maybe so.

Old Guy: You're partly right, but only partly. Listen to me, there's not a gesture, even the most insignificant, that can't change the world. You see, every detail, every gesture, as slight as it may be, reveals an infinity of truths and thus has an endless repercussion and grandiose effects.

Old Guy: You only have to piss in the sea to make the ocean rise. Don't they say the beating of a butterfly's wings over the Atlantic can cause a hurricane in the Pacific?

Old Guy: So feel free sometimes to do something stupid,random and ludicrous.

Old Guy: That stupid, random and ludicrous act can upset the order of the world.

The dialog is from a really brilliant French film, by writer-director Laurent Firode, called "Happenstance". The movie revolves around the life or to say lives of a few individuals whose paths cross every now and then due to a set of random events. Allow me to emphasize on the word, random, in the last sentence. Since I have emphasized enough, these random events aren't just small changes in the lives of these people, they are in fact a series of inputs to the system we call life. these inputs are so small, so insignificant, that we dont really see their existence, but they make a change in the way we live our life, they make us alter the course of our actions, as you will see in this film.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb, recommends to watch this movie, in the Black Swan, so I did & after watching it, I was thinking to myself, was this movie about the lives of these people, or something else? The answer came to me almost instantly, it was not about these people, it was about insignificant, mutually exclusive random events that just made these people behave the way they did. It was really about chaos theory, or to be precise, the butterfly effect.

How many random events can just pass by us throughout the day. Do we really notice them, is it because they are random we dont notice them or is it because we are not capable to notice random events at all. Even if we notice them, would we actually, against our best judgement, acknowledge that these were random events?

A crow craps on you on your way out to some important appointment, you rush back to your home, to change your spoilt white shirt into a graceful black one. You move out of the house wary of any snipers on the roof tops or tree branches again willing to give you a taste of their bowel movements. You reach on time for your appointment & what you realize that person you wanted to meet is also wearing black. The person confessess that, black is the most preferred colour for her & that she was glad that I wore black. Isnt that a weird coincidence, or is it just a natural order of things, I could have so easily avoided the crow crap by taking a auto rickshaw instead of walking, but I forgot my change in my drawer the first time I left home. I forgot the change in my drawer because thats not where I usually keep my change, I keep them in a bowl just besides my table, which fell off the table & smashed into small pieces the other night.

This is a classic series of random events happening in our day to day lives & even if we want to connect & we can connect them, we would find a pattern of activities emerging, where one activity's output becomes an input to some other activity & so on. A random event occuring two days back has the ability to change the course of events happening two days hence. This is the classic case of Chaos Theory, 'Idea that seemingly minor events accumulate to have complex and massive effects on dynamic natural systems.'

Why is this relevent? I have always been a fan of this concept, I accidentally saw this movie called 'the butterfly effect' (another popular title for chaos theory) & realized how deceptively simple the concept was yet so inherenetly mind boggling to understand. I tried to connect many events in my life (in my free time ofcourse) to see if I can really derive causal links to past events & I could. Some of them were readily visible while others which were governed by forces unknown to me (donot read GOD) were blurred or impossible to decipher sometimes.

Thus chaos theory makes you take a bird's eye view of the entire series of events to trace which event was fed to which other event in an endless series of cause & effect. Imagine the plight of people who work in the fields involving complex adaptive systems, like stock markets, economics, governtments & nations & so on. The sheer impact of chaos theory is unprecendented. We can't even begin to imagine at how many causal connections can be attached to just one decision & how many times and how high would we have to go to get that coveted bird's eye view of the system(s)?

An year from now, I will be working in a similar complex adaptive system, would I be ready for facing the chaos? .........well, I would say lets see. :)

No comments: