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Fat tails vs Little wiggles

I found myself thinking about the relative effects of mundane vs extraordinary events, and the effect they have on human life. In my case, what ‘s affected my life the most is not unlikely cataclysmic events that no one expected, but rather perfectly mundane commonplace dime-a-dozen occurences that steered me in a critically different direction, a small deviation that had an amplified result. A little, I suppose, like the butterfly that flaps its wings in Asia.

For example: if I hadn’t gone to see a doctor for a minor ailment when I was 19 I wouldn’t have been in this country in this field. The doctor, had a nephew who’d left South Africa on an IIE scholarship to Columbia to do a PhD in physics. The doctor encouraged me to do the same, and I did. If I hadn’t gone to see him, I would have lived somewhere else, met other people, done different things. Of course this is looking backward, not forward, but nevertheless. It’s a bit like evolution — a bunch of small environmental changes that ultimately produce a different species, through chance and natural selection, a species that cannot reproduce with members of the species it started from.

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