Perhaps at some point in your life you have been subjected to this precious bit of wisdom:
“The definition of stupidity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” — Albert Einstein
First of all, is this not at direct odds with our beloved:
“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again”
“Practice makes perfect”?
I’ve had major beef with Einstein’s definition of stupidity for much of my life. Why? A number of successes in my life have involved precisely doing the same thing over and over again, and finally achieving a different result. Anyone who has ever used Kenyan telephone can tell you that repeating an action, even within a digital environment, can have unpredictable outcomes. I once received a three hundred dollar discount on an airline fare, just by refreshing the trip search several times. That is gospel truth.
If someone throws this thing in your face on a regular basis, and it irks you; I suggest you bring down on them a hammer called Chaos Theory. Let’s have a basic statement:
“Sensitivity to initial conditions means that each point in such a system is arbitrarily closely approximated by other points with significantly different future trajectories. Thus, an arbitrarily small perturbation of the current trajectory may lead to significantly different future behavior.”
Chaos Theory states that within certain systems, a difference of seemingly insignificant proportions at any given moment, can lead to wildly different results. Chaos theory is by no means just a thought experiment. It has endured a significant amount of scientific rigor. It has practical uses.
While a human being can intend to do the same thing over and over again, from a systemic point of view, he cannot actually do it–at least in terms of setting in motion an identical boundary condition. Let it be a lesson in humility that at any given moment, there is an entire physical universe involved in anything you are doing. I’ll say no more.