By Team Lead, PHP Developer, Prasad Solutions
It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer or the baker, that we expect our dinner but from their regard to their own self-interest’. Adam Smith, popularly known as the Father of Economics, quoted these astounding lines and brought into vogue the very subject of ‘unintended consequences’. The term, however, was coined by Robert K Merton later in the 20th century who was often discovered slogging over the issues of Sociological Ambivalence and Theories of Deviance etc. But the heart of the matter is why was there a need to engulf so many highbrow people into discussing and discovering this matter? Murphy’s Law, often used as a humorous warning, states that ‘anything that can go wrong will go wrong’, and similar is the law of unintended consequences. It is more of a cautionary advice to the hubristic belief that humans can entirely control the world around them. Statements although literally true, are nevertheless, misleading. However, unintended outcomes may not always be negative. They can broadly be systematized into three groups namely positive, negative and perverse effect (often entitled as cobra effect). Positive unanticipated benefits are repeatedly witnessed as a part of serendipitous discoveries of science. One of the most appreciable examples is that of Aspirin which is used as a pain reliever, worldwide. But the action of Aspirin is not confined to being a pain killer, in addition, it also acts as an anticoagulant which can help prevent heart attacks and reduce damage caused by thrombotic strokes. Hence the side effect is indeed a model of unpredicted beneficial upshot. However this is not always the case because a drug may also yield a detrimental side effect as an extension to the intended effect. Intravenous medications, for instance, save lives but they can reduce the user’s appetite and even trigger nightmares which certainly are not foreseen. Therefore, this forms an example of negative unintended consequence in the field of science.
Let us now dig our history days to locate a few more instances of the mater concerned. With the arrival of British and their growing domination over the country, they found it almost mandatory to educate the natives in order to make the trade work facile and uncomplicated. What they could not envision was the quick hold that Indians attained over gaining knowledge, thereby making education a basic necessity for every child in the country. The possible outcomes were then overseen; ergo the victory of Indians has now become a quotidian announcement. Ironically, India presently enjoys more influence over the UN than Britain which probably explains it all. This was a satisfactory comparison of two contrasting effects and their real life examples. It’s time we move on to explaining the perverse effect which is often referred to as ‘the cobra effect’. The best formula of comprehending this is by observing a boomerang, which when hurled in the forward direction makes a U-turn and comes back to you. We have done this several times before and suffered the severe consequences. Osama Bin Laden, for instance, was originally trained and operated by the CIA in Afghanistan, what happened next need not be discussed. Talking about examples, Bible also explains this outturn by stating that, ‘clearly, lying is an act of hatred. It is so bad that it can bring ruin to those it is used against, and like a boomerang, it will return to destroy those who employ it’. It is often quoted that ‘the game of life is the game of boomerang. Our thoughts, deeds and words return to us sooner or later with astounding accuracy’.in simple words, when you do not predict the outcome; sometimes it so happens that the opposite of what you intended, occurs. There is also a general way of looking at these consequences which were not meant to come about.
I may now be hated by many for writing this, but making a charity is not a deed as good as it appears. In fact, to me, it is a perfect example of the cobra effect. Before I get disliked any further, I would like to explain why. While making a charity or financially assisting the needy, most of us (of course ignoring those greedy of fame obtained by such means) possess a virtuous intention, but have we ever considered its long term effects? Yes, I am talking about the population explosion caused by merely helping the needy since it fairly reduces the death rate. My intention, I repeat, is not to deny charity but to throw light on the conclusions that were not aimed. If you have a keen observance, you will realize that almost everything that we do today, has an unexpected impact on our tomorrow. We must understand that life is chaotic, a jumble of accidents, ambitions, misconceptions, bold intentions, lazy happenstances, and unintended consequences, yet there are connections that illuminate our world, revealing its endless mystery and wonder. Probably the most visible example of unintended consequences is what happens every time humans try to change the natural ecology of a place. I hereby conclude my essay by quoting the words of the very victorious and triumphant Margaret J. Wheatley who said, ‘Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful.’
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