Sometimes you come up with the strangest realisations when you aren’t looking for them.
Whilst Out Walking…
I saw a sticker in Covent Garden with a two letter acronym I recognised.
I calculated the odds of my guessing what it stood for correctly as 671 to 1 (26 (number of letters in alphabet) x 26 (number of letters))
Then after that I thought what other factors could effect the probability I was right…?
- I hadn’t considered the usage of other alphabets,
- A bias on probability caused by more exposure to the service in London,
- People’s preferences for putting stickers in certain places,
and so on…
Which brought me to the conclusion that it is extremely hard to know all the variables to any given situation or question and speak with absoloute certainty. You can never be completely right.
Life is less certain than we’d like to think, and this was, relatively speaking, a simple guess that I was trying to make. What about predicting economic outcomes or conflict scenarios?
The Best Laid Plans
Think about it in your planning. You’ve probably had plans go wrong at some time in your life right, why?
- A variable you had calculated for went awry
- There was a variable you missed
You calculate from a nigh on infinite range of variables, which increases your odds of getting something right, but you won’t catch them all. There are always variables you miss.
You just need for things to be just right enough. And you decide when it is right enough. But they are never completely right; at least, not in the sense of absolute, utter certainty. Like so many things, we put our faith in statistics and probability – even if unconsciously.
And what I mean by that is, if you ask the average person (and I have done this) they’re usually ‘fairly certain’ of a lot of things – but ‘completely 100% certain’ of only a few.
Certainty Is A Mental Crutch / Equanimity Might Make You Invulnerable
The implications in risk management are obvious. I guess you could say there’s always risk and there’s always unknowns. There is no form of insurance against everything happens to you, asides from, perhaps, just being happy.
If you are supremely, intrinsically happy, you really won’t care what happens. I guess this is a goal of existential practice, and is a kind of spiritual invincibility.
Yes, certainty is an illusion that makes us feel comfortable.
But what is so uncomfortable about embracing the reality of an unpredictable world?
I mean, apparently the universe exploded out of a tiny dot in an endless void of nothing, and we went from total entropy to pugs stealing human clothing in just a few billion years.
…who could have predicted that?