Pur Autre Vie

I'm not wrong, I'm just an asshole

Monday, October 13, 2014

Chaos Is Yours and Chaos Is Mine

A little vignette about path-dependency.  In junior high school, my class was taken to a children's science museum, which was doing a display on chaos.  One of the exhibits consisted of a video camera pointed at its own output on a monitor.  There were a few variables you could control:  the tilt of the camera, a light that could shine on the monitor, and a few other things I can't remember.  My friend had set up a pretty cool pattern that looked like a fractal of white and black rectangles spiraling away into infinity.

Without asking, I flipped the light on, which of course changed the pattern on the screen.  My friend was upset, having worked quite hard to make a cool pattern.  I felt bad and said, "Look, it's nothing, I'll put it back," and I flipped the light off again.  But of course the pattern didn't return, and so I felt pretty terrible about having casually ruined my friend's work.

But in a way, the lesson would not have been nearly as valuable if it hadn't come along with an emotional sting.  I'll never forget that day, whereas I've forgotten countless school lessons that were probably no less important.


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