once in a billion years

March 29, 2008

Sentient Developments has a nice piece on the one in a billion years chance that planned experiments at CERN will create a black hole which will destroy the earth. It’s a good general piece on some of the dilemmas associated with scientific research and I commend it. Compared with some of the other ways in which we could go, a black hole would be a relatively clean death I suppose, with the odd chance of being transferred to a parallel universe in which the Treaty of Montgomery was honored by Edward I and his successors. One quote stuck in my mind however:

Three years ago, Max Tegmark and Nick Bostrom wrote a piece for Nature in which they took a stab at the question. They warned that humanity has been lulled into a false sense of security and that “the fact that the Earth has survived for so long does not necessarily mean that such disasters are unlikely, because observers are, by definition, in places that have avoided destruction.”

Most of the popular management books you find (and a fair number of the articles) seem to be take a similar perspective. They seem to think that there success is a result of things that they did, rather than the fact that they just happen to be amongst those who survived. Now I don’t want to take a fatalist view here. I think we can make a difference. However success that cannot be matched back to a validated theory is more likely to a result of accident than design.

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