Monday, January 26, 2009

The Law of Unintended Consequences

According to Wikipedia, the Law of Unintended Consequences goes somethin' like this :) ---

Unintended Consequences are outcomes that are not (or not limited to) the results originally intended in a particular situation. The unintended results may be foreseen or unforeseen, but they should be the logical or likely results of the action. They can be grouped into roughly three types:

 - a positive unexpected benefit usually referred to as serendipity or windfall? - a negative or perverse effect, that may be contrary to what was originally intended? - a potential source of problems.

This maxim is not a scientific law; it is more a warning against the hubristic belief that humans can fully control the world around them. Stated in other words, each cause has more than one effect, and these effects will invariably include at least one unforeseen side effect. The unintended side effect can potentially be more significant than any of the intended effects.

Possible causes of unintended consequences include the world's inherent complexity (parts of a system responding to changes in the environment), perverse incentives, human stupidity, self-deception or other cognitive or emotional biases.

Robert K. Merton listed five possible causes of unanticipated consequences:? - ignorance (it is impossible to anticipate everything, thereby leading to incomplete analysis)? - error (incorrect analysis of the problem or following habits that worked in the past but may not apply to the current situation)? - immediate interest, which may override long-term interests? - basic values may require or prohibit certain actions even if the long-term result may be unfavorable (these long-term consequences may eventually cause change in basic values)? - self-defeating prophecy (fear of some consequences drives people to find solutions before the problem occurs, thus the non-occurrence of the problem is unanticipated)

?I can assure you, none of this was going through my mind when we purchased ... the scooter.


Here, I thought we were selecting a toy used for basic motor skills, and some one-year-old fun.

But no. It was another case of the LOUC in full swing. Imagine that 5 o'clock witching hour (those of you with kids just shuddered, I know) when another rousing round of BAM! ensues.

?What's BAM! you might ask? 

It's this pretty little bad boy...?

?being driven into the kitchen cupboards (and table and walls!) by this little sweet thing....?

?Whilst shouting BAM! at the top of her lungs.

I claim stupidity!!

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