February 12, 2012

The Pachinko Effect

 History is neither preordained nor a straight line. It is a fiendishly complex game of billiards or perhaps a massive pachinko machine. The cascade effect of screwing with a few variables is inherently unpredictable as the tapestry of history is bound together with a collection of seemingly insignificant threads, the removal or reordering of which will unravel said tapestry in unknown ways.

  Pondering such things is often dismissed as silly fantasy or mental masturbation, but our future will soon be history, and it behooves us to remember what a near run thing our existence is. Such reflection might, for instance,  have made a great deal of difference in the August of 1914.


A short, glorious endeavor...sure to be finished by Christmas.

  As we look upon the uncharted, unlit highway that is our future, it is, perhaps, wise to reflect upon how surprising our history was to those that made it. We should take great care to learn as much as we can from their astonishment, for the road we travel has as many forks and is at least as precarious as theirs.

Posted by: The Brickmuppet at 04:24 PM | Comments (2) | Add Comment
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1 Obviously, I've never found What If...? scenarios to be wastes of time.  Just as obviously, quite a few (if not most) "legitimate historians" do... which makes me feel quite superior to them, actually.

Posted by: Wonderduck at Sun Feb 12 18:46:50 2012 (K/dx0)

2 Without what-if you'd never get yes-but, which can introduce you to things that don't fit into the canned narrative of a history textbook (like Japan's nuclear weapons program, or submersible aircraft carriers). I once had someone try to shout down my political opinions with the words "I was a history major, I know", and yet it was obvious that there was no real depth to his knowledge, particularly when he lectured me about American Imperialism.

-j

Posted by: J Greely at Mon Feb 13 12:39:01 2012 (2XtN5)

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