The Butterfly and the Metaphor: Butterflies are beautiful and their cascading impact, like the influence of all seemingly inconsequential things, can be awesome

John Cousins
February 7, 2023
2 min read
Photo by Krzysztof Niewolny on Unsplash

The butterfly effect is a phenomenon which encapsulates aspects of Chaos Theory.

The insight was uncovered by a meteorologist named Edward Lorenz while he was studying the genesis of storms and other powerful climate events like hurricanes. The ‘butterfly effect’ states that something as small as a single flap of a butterfly can cause a big change in the weather of a place somewhere else.

This concept has become famous and is used as a metaphor in many fields that are based on complex systems. It is used to express the fact that there is no linear direct cause and effect relationship that can be used to build simple predictive models. Reality is too complicated to be reduced to a simple causality.

The Promethean power of metaphor

Metaphors are powerful ways to grasp complicated concepts. The butterfly metaphor means that a small change can give rise to a big tidal wave. And you can’t predict where or how.

Seemingly unimportant acts, or omissions, can have great and unforeseen consequences.

Here is a quote from Ben Franklin that details the cascading effects of a seemingly inconsequential oversight.

“For the want of a nail the shoe was lost,
For the want of a shoe the horse was lost,
For the want of a horse the rider was lost,
For the want of a rider the battle was lost,
For the want of a battle the kingdom was lost,
And all for the want of a horseshoe-nail.”

― Benjamin Franklin

Pay Attention to the Details

Consequently, a successful endeavor is one where every possible deficiency has been avoided or addressed and exorcised.

God is in the detail.

Bauhaus architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe said this. He built a lot of timeless buildings and furniture.

Pay attention to the ounces and the pounds will take care of themselves.

The Deity is in the Details.

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John Cousins
Author, Entrepreneur, & Teacher

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