A writing piece from Scott P. Scheper.
Issue No. 115
One American Plaza
Downtown San Diego, CA
Friday, 3:40 pm
Accidents are a feature, not a bug.
Without accidents there would be no progress or growth. Evolution relies on accidents. Heck, even you might be an accident!
The best systems build accidents into their core fabric.
Of course, there are accidents you would perceive as bad, and others as good. The core ingredient of an accident is randomness.
One of the pioneers of Systems Theory in Sociology, Niklas Luhmann, recognized such. He made sure to engineer it into his knowledge management system.
Essential systems contain randomness. While interesting, I was already familiar with such a concept. I've read about the before-mentioned and its close cousin, serendipity. From personal experience, I know how randomness causes accidents. I knew some accidents end up being breakthroughs. However, this isn't the main lesson in today's piece.
Luhmann further elaborated on something I find very interesting: the origins of randomness. It's counter-intuitive, but randomness does not come from chaos. It relies on order, for even the creation of randomness requires organization.
The theory of randomness and accidents are things that I can write about at length, but I shan't do that now. I will end with a story of less theoretical nature. It is sunny outside, it is beautiful, and it is a Friday. Therefore, we shall talk about... rum.
Several years ago, I was on vacation in Barbados with my former spouse. One day we decided to do something other than bumming around the pool and sipping rum punches. We decided to tour the factory of the island's finest rum. While there, something unexpected happened, actually two things:
- As you may know, rum is usually found in tropical mixed drinks. I never had drunk rum straight before. I learned the reason why is because straight rum tastes like straight anus! You will hate it unless you drink nail polish remover. Because of this, I did not drink that day. Perhaps due to this, I was capable of later writing down a lesson I learned. The lesson, I shall now share in number two.
- What I learned is how the concept of aging alcohol came to be. You see, up to that point as soon as alcohol was served fresh. It was thought of akin to food——the fresher it is, the better it is. However, when alcohol was shipped from Barbados to England it took months. When it arrived, the rum was browned in color by the barrel it aged in. However, its taste surprised everyone. It did not taste bad; in fact, it tasted much better. So much better, in fact, that aging became a necessary component in the distillation and making of alcohol.
Therefore, my dear Reader, you have a case of randomness, creating an accident, which ends up being a breakthrough.
And with that, I shall now depart and do one thing this weekend: not drink straight rum!
Scott P. Scheper
P.S. I feel like this piece sucked today, but who knows. Maybe it'll spark some insights for you, and if not, at least for some random soul who accidentally stumbles upon it!
P.P.S. The reason I feel like this piece sucked is, well, because, it's not quite as spontaneous as my other pieces. This one is based on my notes written recently after finishing Communicating with Slip Boxes by Niklas Luhmann (see: footnote 2).
P.P.P.S. F. Scott Fitzgerald died thinking himself a failure, and The Great Gatsby a disappointment; therefore, to hell——yes to hell!——with perceiving the value your own work!
His Zettelkasten. See: Schmidt, Johannes. “Niklas Luhmann‘s Card Index: Thinking Tool, Communication Partner, Publication Machine.” Forgetting Machines. Knowledge Management Evolution in Early Modern Europe 53 (2016). https://pub.uni-bielefeld.de/record/2942475. ↩︎
“Communicating with Slip Boxes by Niklas Luhmann.” Accessed May 4, 2021. https://luhmann.surge.sh/communicating-with-slip-boxes. Page 7. ↩︎
Scott P. Scheper