Tag Archives: epistemology

Causal Chain

Recently went riding at the margins of Olympic, was actually planning to do a loop through couple of forest roads, but eventually ended up running into a road gated shut. So, had to turn back half way, and ride across the same bridge seen on my way up. And not just the same bridge, I crossed paths with the same hiker who was now walking back from the other end. Clearly, even he was amused at this bizarre coincidence. How often do the path of a motorcyclist, and a hiker in the wilderness converge on a bridge — twice!

In a way, coincidences or accidents are just separate causal chains coinciding at some point. For instance — ferry time, riding pattern, not up-to-date maps on the GPS etc were all immediate preceding links on my causal chain. If we go further back, then there are other causal sequences explaining why ferry times are the way they are, or how I ended up riding in some quirky way etc. But, we can only speculate about the causal events related to the mysterious hiker.

 

In that sense, every moment is the consequence of a set of connected or disconnected and known or unknown preceding causal events. Actually, even in my case, we can only speculate whether it was the incorrect map or did someone just decided to shut that road the previous day? Or maybe my riding pattern was immaterial. That means if all the other factors remained same, all types of riders would have faced the mysterious hiker, twice! If only we could replay life, and control it for various factors.

Some coincidences are rare, but others tend to be recurring and contentious. For instance, rising college tuition, health care costs or govt deficit spending tend to be recurring and divisive. But there are also recurring less contentious coincidences – like plummeting smart phone or fast food prices! Rarely do we see political rallies about unaffordable fries. Recurring events tend to have some dominant agency – it can be some specific group of people, natural forces, or some incentive structure etc. But general discourse is rarely about correcting these complex causal factors, which led to the present contentious pattern. But it’s usually more about introducing new factors into the mix — like price/licensing controls, or a new tax, or may be a new war? So, instead of fixing the root cause we keep introducing workarounds. Sounds like another recurring pattern.