The Butterfly Effect and Individual Action

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María Muñoz
Waking Times

The Butterfly Effect is not only the name of a movie starring Ashton Kutcher, but is actually a physical theory which indicates that small changes made by a source of energy in the natural world can radiate and lead to more profound changes within larger systems.

In 1960, Edward Lorenz was experimenting to find a series of equations to predict weather.  He created a computer model from a suggestion that the behavior of large air masses could in fact be predicted.

Lorenz conducted various tests until he managed to fit the model to three variables that explain how weather changes over time, speed and air temperature. This model is now well known, and is called the Lorenz model. In addition, Lorenz noted that small differences in the initial data generated large differences in model predictions. By including some data with small changes in decimals — for example, using 6 decimal places instead of 3, the results were very different.

Lorenz concluded that any small change or error in the initial conditions of the system can greatly influence the final result. This prevents making accurate long-term climate predictions. It is inevitable that the data provided by weather stations have errors, because they cannot provide information on all corners of the globe, so predictions about the actual behavior of the larger system is an exercise in futility.

  • Lorenz suggested that incorrect data would be obtained by simply not taking into account the flutter of a single butterfly across the planet.That simple flutter could “introduce disturbances in the system that leads to the prediction of a storm.” So it was called the Butterfly Effect.

    The Butterfly Effect highlights the seriousness of amplifying (or dismissing) what can arise in a complex system from the starting point of an individual event.  From complex phenomena such as weather forecasts to the stock market, we are told by elites and global managers that these are predictable, manageable (aka potentially rigged) systems.  According to the Butterfly Effect, this is merely wishful thinking for controlling minds.

    Perhaps we can best see the Butterfly Effect in action with the use of the Internet and social media. Open daily communication between ordinary people is enabling world-spanning influence, and the rise of larger movements based upon a seemingly insignificant individual interaction.

    Incidentally, the Butterfly Effect is echoed in the concept of The Tipping Point, which is outlined below:

    In Malcolm Gladwell’s provocative book The Tipping Point, he gives many examples of how seemingly small, insignificant decisions can radiate to cause an eventual wave of change that overtakes the prevailing modes of behavior.  He clearly extrapolates how the silent leaders of society — not the ones on TV, or the ones we appoint — set trends through their singular ability to recognize an underlying need, or change of direction.  It can be as simple as a clothing style, a type of cuisine, a new travel destination . . . or the need to change the world’s political course.  I believe there are signs that The Tipping Point for free humanity has been reached; from here on out, there will be an open dialogue between the forces of tyranny and the forces of freedom. (Source)

    Both the Butterfly Effect and the Tipping Point models call into question the very nature of control.  We are continuously bombarded by bureaucracy and larger systems that serve as the “managers” of our daily lives and our society, but this appears to be a false construct.  It seems that the chaotic nature of interaction based upon free will suggests that the individual is the seat of true power and change.

    To see the final transformative effect of our individual actions, we just have to let nature take its course… then witness the end result.

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