DRMacIver's Notebook

Stuff just happens and you probably don't know why

Stuff just happens and you probably don't know why

I get ill a lot.

Why? Who knows. It's always happened to me. There are any number of theories. Maybe I have a weird immune system. Maybe I touch my face a lot. Maybe I'm a bit too stressed and not breathing properly as a result and that makes me notice mild illnesses more. Maybe it's a consequence of bad diet.

It is almost certain not monocausal and is because of a number of independent things that don't actually interact but each just up my chances of getting ill, because getting ill is a highly nondeterministic process that is an accumulation of many different things.

Anyway, you know that big 20th century crime wave? Due to social breakdown, modernity, changing demographics, toxic masculinity responding to the different gender roles in an increasingly feminist world, the consequences of multiple wars, globalisation, and oops never mind it was probably just lead.

While we're on the subject of toxic masculinity, you know how every woman has experiences of being cat called in public by men?

No, that's not true actually. It's definitely the majority experience, but there are multiple women I know who have cautiously said to me "It's really weird. This just doesn't happen to me. Other women talk about how this is some ubiquitous thing and I've just never seen it". It's not an attractiveness thing - the women I've heard this from are mostly very attractive.

That's not to say that cat calling isn't a problem. It's a problem, of course, a major one. But somehow it's one that some women don't experience, and it's fairly mysterious as to why. It's easy to generate hypotheses, but it's hard to say which of them are accurate because it's extremely unlikely that it's monocausal, and if it is monocausal it's probably caused by something completely random like preferred colour palette or getting enough sleep or something.

Seemingly almost everyone in London is tired. Seemingly almost everyone in tech has a sleeping disorder. Why? Who knows. It's probably not monocausal, and if it is it's probably something random like the design of the tube network or homophily along shared social traits of people who sleep badly.

Rival Voices has this idea of secret handshake theory as implicit ways of groups signalling compatibility, and secret handshakes control what parts of the world you have access to, but I think this if anything understates how weirdly specific our lived experiences are, and how many areas of life are opened to or locked away from us by seemingly inconsequential choices and behaviours.

We like the idea that the world makes sense and things happen to us for reasons, but this greatly underestimates its complexity, and the number of things that are indirect consequences of seemingly unrelated things that just change the numbers enough to completely shift our lived experience into a different pattern from other people.

Because we focus on this idea that the world makes sense, we tend to fit our experiences to simple narratives, and this causes us to assume they are much more shared than they are. We talk about the typical mind fallacy, but the typical lived experience fallacy is if anything more pervasive. Your lived experience is probably less universally shared than you think it is, and where it's shared it's probably not for the reasons you think it is.

Questions like this are frustrating because they're in some sense purely empirical and should be answerable by empirical and logical means, but you're probably never going to know the answer until the nature of the world shifts and the problem fixes itself and becomes obvious in retrospect.