Cyreenik Says

March 2021 issues

The importance of seeing the right pattern

People like to see patterns in the events happening around them. The advantage of seeing a pattern is that it aids predicting. If the right pattern is seen then good predictions about the future evolution of a specific situation can be made. The key here is seeing the right pattern. If the wrong pattern is seen then the predictions made from it will have random accuracy.

The place this issue of getting the right pattern is coming up this month is the shootings at three spas in Atlanta which killed eight people. The shooting was done by a single person who has been arrested and has talked about the incident. (this WSJ article covers the basic details) According to the article the shooter targeted the businesses in retaliation “for providing an outlet for his addiction to sex,” law-enforcement officials said.

But this incident is unusual enough, and high-profile crazy enough, that many people are paying attention and applying patterns of their own choice to explain why it happened and what it predicts for the future. One group the media have picked up on is some Asian-Americans who are saying this is a pattern of violence against Asian-Americans. (this other WSJ article covers this aspect)

This may be the case... or it may be a case of applying a favorite pattern to an incident that really has no relation to the pattern. If this no relation is the case then predictions made from the pattern will have a random relation to what happens in the future. The pattern will feel good to the person who has picked it, but it won't predict any better than rolling dice will. And this is the hazard of picking the wrong pattern to explain an incident. A related saying is: Don't attribute to conspiracy what simple incompetence can explain.



-- The End --