Why Is The Butterfly Effect Important?

6 Mins read
the butterfly effect
the butterfly effect

The butterfly effect is the one concept that will make you see how your life and anything you do truly matters. If you are like me, and I think most people are, then I’m sure you have once or twice questioned your contribution to the society. You may have once asked yourself if anything you do really matters.

And the short answer is yes, yes everything you do does matter. I’m not saying this to scare you or make you become extra cautious about everything you do, no. I’m telling you this so that you can see what people mean when they say all lives matter.

I have been drawn to write this piece because of the current crisis going on in America today. George Floyd, a black man in the states was killed by a white police officer a week ago and the world hasn’t gone to rest because of it. Its the 21st century and the fact that there are people who still treat lives like any disposable thing is astounding. Therefore, by enlightening you on the concept of the butterfly effect, I hope you get to understand why every life, and every decision matters.

What is the butterfly effect in science and technology

The Butterfly effect is an idea that is largely attributed to Edward Lorenz, a meteorology professor at MIT who stated the concept almost half a century ago. He said that the butterfly effect is the idea that a small change in the initial conditions in a dynamic system can result in a lot of consequences so large that they wouldn’t have been predicted when the change was being made.

The idea came to be known as the “butterfly effect” after Lorenz suggested that the flap of a butterfly’s wings might ultimately cause a tornado. He came to this conclusion when he entered some numbers into a computer program simulating weather patterns.

The computer model was based on 12 variables, representing things like temperature and wind speed, whose values could be depicted on graphs as lines rising and falling over time. Lorenz was repeating a simulation he’d run earlier—but he had rounded off one variable from .506127 to .506. To his surprise, that tiny alteration drastically transformed the whole pattern his program produced, over two months of simulated weather.

This is the science approach towards the butterfly effect. Till today its being taught in mathematics classes in the universities such as engineering. Personally I’m a Mechanical Engineering student at Kenyatta University and this concept is taught under Error Analysis in Engineering Mathematics.

I remember our lecturer telling us how it is important to avoid rounding off numbers if more calculations were going to occur afterwards. She kept using an example of a bridge that couldn’t be completed because the engineers rounded off a few decimal points when the construction started. Over time, the rounding off ended up adding up to the point that the bridge couldn’t be completed because it was misaligned. Here is a picture for demonstration.

misaligned bridge caused by error analysis in rounding off decimals.

She emphasized on the fact that small errors do eventually lead to big changes. However, this isn’t exactly what Edward Lorenz was talking about. This is because changes such as the one involving the bridge can be predicted through calculations and error analysis.

The butterfly effect on the other hand focuses on small changes that can cause catastrophic results that cannot be predicted or otherwise be analysed for preventive measures.

This is the same concept that is applied to time travelling movies and TV Shows such as “The Flash”, in season 3 of the series, The Flash goes back in time to prevent the death of his mother, upon returning to the present time, he finds out that many things have changed.

The girl he was in love with before wasn’t in a relationship with him, she didn’t even remember him. His friends weren’t his friends anymore and one of them was even turning into a killer. These changes caused by time travelling are what time travelling enthusiasts refer to as the results of the butterfly effect.

Even though the butterfly effect indicates that the final outcome cannot be known, some scientists have come to state that if by any chance in the future we are able to harness every information on the planet, every tiny insignificant information, then there is a possibility that we will be able to accurately predict the future with 100% certainty.

This scientific belief is the same belief that has been used to state that if God is real then He may be an alien from a very technologically advanced race. Or that He is a human from a time where the human race became so technologically advanced that it went extinct apart from him, and that He is here to try and correct the mistakes they made by introducing religion and showing us the right way to live. Which explains why the Bible has lots of convincing future predictions.

It is also the concept that adds up to the multiverse theory – that every decision you make spills into the fabric of reality creating infinity instances in which you make different decisions thereby creating multiple universe where those decisions are manifested, hence leading to an infinity number of universes to accommodate those decisions.

But we are not here to talk about science now are we.

What is the butterfly effect in psychology, philosophy and social settings

The butterfly effect in this sense is referred to as a concept in which the tinniest, smallest of human decisions made can cause a chain of events that over time will result in something bigger that would have otherwise not have been predicted when the small decision was being made.

This means that anything you choose to do, however small and insignificant, can result in a chain of events that will add up, eventually they will reach a point in which they will cause a bigger significant event to occur.

Scary stuff huh.

In that video from Top5s, you here of how World War 1 wouldn’t have happened if a driver had chosen to take a different turn. You also hear of how JFK wouldn’t have died if he didn’t have his back pain issues. That is how the world works, one event in the history of mankind can shape everything else that follows.

Be it a choice to go to college or not, a decision to marry or not, a choice between carrying an umbrella to work or not carrying the umbrella, all of these choices end up resulting into something else happening and the cycle continues.

Humans are social creatures what we do echos throughout the entirety of human existence. The things you say to your friends, the advice you give, the people you choose to hang out with, the career path you choose and the principles you choose to believe in not only affect you but the people around you. Those people in turn influence other people and the chain goes on to infinity.

Take for example this article you are reading right now. I came up with the idea of posting this because of the social injustice that is going on in the United States, specifically because of the murder of George Floyd. I could have easily decided to write something else but I chose to write this. You will read it and possibly share it with one or two of your friends because you believe its insightful and may help someone make wiser choices.

Those friends may decide to change their lives if they didn’t have their shit together because they will have realized how vast their influence is. Over time, one of them may end up being the next Elon Musk, with the desire to take the human race to the stars thereby changing the course of history forever. Or maybe he/she will decide to get off there ass and get a job at Starbucks or not do anything at all, nobody knows.

The point is, any decision made by anyone results in a chain of events that will result in bigger things happening that can’t be predicted beforehand.

So why is the butterfly effect important

You may be asking yourself, if there is no way to know what will happen if you choose to do or not do something, then why should you even care about the butterfly effect. If the eventuality is unknown, why should the butterfly effect matter that much.

I will tell you why.

In my previous article,“The Meaning of “To whom much is given much is required”, I talked about how important it is that you never sleep on your gifts and blessings. I said that before you choose to use or not use your platform, influence and gifts for whatever reason, remember that what you are going to do will influence a lot of people. Whether positively or negatively. Your gifts have the capacity to change the world, and that is a lot of responsibility, hence the phrase “with great power comes great responsibility”.

The butterfly effect matters. It is important because whether you like it or not, what you do will affect others. So why not choose to influence other people in a positive way.

When you know you have a gift its upon you to realize that that gift is not only for your own happiness but everybody else’s. As humans we are all social creatures – we depend on each other, neither one of us is an island, therefore everything we are and everything we do is a ripple in the stream of time and space.

The tinniest of decisions you would ever make will echo throughout our entire existence, some people’s decisions may be more publicly noticeable than yours but don’t think for one second that yours are insignificant. If you understand the concept of the Butterfly effect then you will not waste your time doubting your contributions to the society, every decision is significant.

Feel free to copy paste this quote and tweet it, it can change the world, you never know:

If you understand the concept of the Butterfly effect then you will not waste your time doubting your contributions to the society, every decision is significant.

Dominic Nyabuto –
57 posts

About author
I'm a psychology enthusiast and a fried chicken lover. I write bite sized articles unpacking the complexities of the human mind. The mission is to advocate for what's more important in life - the pursuit of the truth and the highest good one can do with that truth - for themselves, the people around them and the society as a whole.
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