The chaos theory: when the flutter of a butterfly's wings can change everything

The chaos theory: when the flutter of a butterfly's wings can change everything

We all know the butterfly effect. This theory is the essence of the theory of chaos, a law enunciated by James Yorke that reminds us of something essential. The world does not follow a millimetric and predictable principle. Like it or not, chaos is part of our life. There is always a small place for chance, which is why it will sometimes be almost impossible for us to predict the effect of certain events.

It is customary to associate this theory with its original branches: mathematics and physics. However, we often forget that these sciences have a direct influence on our daily life.

In fact, few paradigms have such an impact on the domains of behavior and knowledge. Moreover, James Yorke summarizes the importance of his theory in one sentence: we must be ready to change our plans at any time.

"In life, it's important to be flexible, I do not plan things anymore, I prefer to discover them."

-James Yorke, father of the theory of chaos

Each of us has a degree of tolerance for uncertainty. From a certain point, our brain enters "alert mode" vis-à-vis what could happen.

We prefer stability. We like to know that two and two are four and that what we have and who surrounds us one day will still be there the next day. All this allows us to reach the emotional balance allowing us to enjoy having everything under control.

However, the theory of chaos highlights an obviousness. Life and its development do not respond to the rhythmic and perfect rhythm of the watch. The unforeseen and the uncontrollable always live in us and between us.

It is a sword of Damocles that can fall at any time. This butterfly, which today flies its wings over the United States, can arrive tomorrow in Europe in the form of an economic crisis. This white ball in which we play billiards and that the rest of the balls are scattered in unexpected directions …

The theory of chaos: nature is unpredictable

The theory of chaos tells us in a few words that the outcome of an event depends on several variables. We can not predict with complete accuracy the behavior of these. There is always a margin of error, a place for chance, a flapping of wings that changes everything at the last moment. Sometimes, a small difference generates an effect with significant proportions whose distinctive sign will be printed in all chaotic systems.

Some say that Chaos theory configures one of the most wonderful areas of modern mathematics. They claim that it is science that tries to predict the behavior of inherently unpredictable systems.

We can now assume facts that will be probable in almost all areas of knowledge. Let us not forget that until then, the goal of the scientific world was to eliminate the variable of "uncertainty" to be able to describe with certainty the behavior of practically anything.

However, we accept today this margin where chance and unforeseen exist at a given moment and can come to change everything. In fact, it was discovered by the meteorologist and mathematician Edward Lorenz in 1961 when he tried to create a computer system to predict the weather. He quickly realized that due to a rounding error in numbers, the whole system had begun to behave in a manner that was clearly unpredictable. Later, this experience served to formulate the famous butterfly effect.

Chaos constantly lives in us

Chaotic phenomena are not only abundant in nature. They are also involved in the prognoses of temperature and biology. This unpredictable behavior spares no area.

The needle-hole in which the golden thread of the unexpected passes at a given moment and at random spares nothing. Thus, all these chaotic phenomena take place daily without us realizing it in economics, thermodynamics, astronomy, and even in psychology.

Today, we know that any disruption in our brain (such as the alteration of a neurotransmitter) can lead to drastic changes in our behavior. Moreover, in psychiatry, we apply the theory of chaos. By administering a certain medication to a patient, there is a low probability of observing an effect contrary to that expected.

"The slight flapping of a butterfly can be felt at the other end of the world."

-Chinese proverb-

How to apply the theory of chaos in everyday life?

On a daily basis, we are all trying to avoid chaos. It's the only way to feel good.It is the only way to organize our lives where the predictable allows us to go out without fear, allows us to look to the future with confidence. As James Yorke explains to us, father of this theory, the best is to prepare to change our plans at any time.

In a way, this principle is very much related to another theory that we hear about today. We refer to the principle of "black swan" as stated by the essayist, economist and mathematician Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

In his book, which we recommend reading and whose title has the same name as the theory, he reminds us that the majority of us are invaded by a worldview in which everything seems at first sight predictable. However, there always comes a time when strangeness and chaos appear … through an unexpected event. We are obliged to assume the latter and adopt a rational approach.

Nevertheless, instead of having to act when this chaos presents itself to us, the ideal would be to be prepared for it. James Yorke reminds us that individuals who achieve success and happiness always have a Plan B in their bag.

Let's make an effort to develop a flexible mentality and an approach that is not limited to the reaction according to the events that present themselves to us. Let us try to assume them with curiosity and acceptance. Often, it is in chaos that the most opportunities arise. Being prepared to react to unforeseen circumstances ultimately comes down to the ups and downs of life.

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