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A coincidence? Or a Darwin incidence?

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Darwin incidence: A planned event that must be treated as a coincidence, irrespective of probability.

What do readers think?

At 11.32am (EDT) on 8 July, the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) computers went down, causing a four-hour suspension of transactions. In a four-hour period the NYSE averages about $400m (£259m) in trades – a substantial daily loss.

The NYSE and Homeland Security both quickly announced the problem was not due to a cyberattack.

At around the same time that the NYSE went down, the Wall Street Journal’s website went offline, as did that of popular financial blog Zero Hedge. United Airlines also experienced a “network connectivity issue” which impacted almost 5,000 flights worldwide.

Given the criticality of technology to United Airlines, let’s assume for a moment it has a daily reliability rate of 99.9%, meaning it has a system failure once every 1,000 days – which equates to once every three years. Now, let’s assume the NYSE and the Wall Street Journal also have a daily reliability rate of 99.9%.

If these events were truly random and independent, then the frequency of all three of these events happening on the same day is once in a billion days (or if you prefer to count in years, almost 2.8 million years). More.

But consciousness is just an illusion and there are no actual patterns.

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See also: Would we give up naturalism to solve the hard problem of consciousness?

5 Replies to “A coincidence? Or a Darwin incidence?

  1. 1
    Neil Rickert says:

    If these events were truly random and independent, …

    The news report that I heard, suggested that the WSJ crash was at least partly because many people went to the WSJ site to find out about the NYSE crash.

    If that’s true, then they were not independent.

  2. 2
    wd400 says:

    Even if the three failures were independent, calculating the probability of this specific outcome isn’t really telling us how likely this sort of coincidence is.

    We’d be just as surprised, after all, if Delta or Alaskan Air’s computers went down. Using the made up numbers in the linked post,the probability of NYSE + A Major Airline going down is almost an order of magnitude greater that NYSE + United going down.

    (I know nothing about the specific case, just adding to Neil’s point about naive probability calculations being misleading)

  3. 3
    anthropic says:

    Inference to design is warranted when the probability is very low and there is specification to a purpose or function.

    Thus, if several financial exchanges independently shut down due to computer issues at about the same time, a design inference may well be warranted due to specification of a purpose. United Airlines may or may not be related, it is harder to argue specification in this instance.

    Same thing was true on 9/11 attack. One plane hitting a building might be product of unguided processes; two hitting both twin towers within minutes is not only extremely improbable, but also specified for a purpose: Designed terror.

  4. 4
    Axel says:

    Even if they WERE coincidences, they only APPEAR to have been coincidences. Isn’t that right, Richie?

  5. 5
    Mung says:

    Our brains are designed to make coincidences appear coincidental.

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