Contingency of History
12 Mar 2006
I was just beginning to read Triumph and Tragedy in Mudville: A Lifelong Passion for Baseball, a posthumously-finished collection of essays by Stephen Jay Gould, and read this in David Halberstam's Foreward:
Steve Gould believed in what might be called the contingency of history theory---that is, history is not a simple unbroken, almost predictable line of progress with certian almost guaranteed givens and this assured outcomes.
It occurs to me that history, either historical and geological, is not the only field in which contingency holds sway. Possibly, it is not even the one where contingency's power is greatest. Technology may well hold that honor.
Contingency has its position because details/ matter, because pseudo-random or truely random trivia often has effects far greater than its initial appearance. The function giving the outputs from the inputs, as it were, is very, very strange.
The difference, however, between history and technology is that in the latter field, not only does trivia matter, it actively consipires, maliciously.