The Blog of Daniel

Just my place to write without any delusions of self-importance.

Life meets Cascade Failure and Game Theory

Yes, this does have a point.

A cascade failure is when a single fault is introduced into a system and it begins to trickle down through all the various sub-systems until the entire system is compromised and comes to a grinding halt.  Cascade failures are abundant in the world of hardware engineering, software design, biology and human relationships.

Game Theory, at least one aspect of it, is to be able to predict the outcome of social interactions by knowing the strategies and choices available to each player.

Some examples of cascade failure:

Biology:  Just look at any virus.  One little organism entering the human body can completely destroy it within days.

A Geeky Star Trek Voyager Episode:  The computer generated holographic doctor has to treat two identically wounded patients.  He can only save the life of one of them, he alone has to choose which one, and he chooses to save the one he is more emotionally attached to.  The later second guessing of his decision sends his "brain" into this infinite loop of decisions and he finally becomes non-functional.

Epilepsy: I talked about this a few times.  Certain sensory input like visual patterns or physical sensations can ultimately lead to a seizure  Including these, with me personally, sometimes pondering mathematical or scientific concepts can trigger them.  If the answer to something strikes me as absolutely incredible and almost unfathomable it can start the whole process.  Once simply pondering the total number of electrons in the universe triggered me.  Things involving mathematical and geometric recursion can do it.  If the answer doesn't seem to have finality, it starts a cascade failure that reaches its apex 6 to 8 hours later.

Panic, anxiety and shock:  These are all triggered by sensory overload and can quickly render a person into a state of disorientation or completely non-responsive.  These are very common when there is a sudden unexpected change in routine or death of a loved one.

Relationships:  This is probably where cascade failures occur the most.  The 50% divorce rate is proof enough.    It usually starts when one person misinterprets the intentions of the other.  One person will make a comment, or perhaps fail to make a desired comment.  Maybe one of the parties may not smile on queue.  The other person, rather than ignore it or inquire about it (so as to form a solution), decides to reciprocate with an equal or even escalated action.  This continues back and forth, continually escalated, and it eventually leads to all out war or the relationship comes to a halt.  Everyone has done this.  You, me, and everyone else.  It's human nature.

So what brought all this post into being?  I wrote most of it a couple years ago and I got to thinking about it again after listening to the unresolved petty bickering of a married couple and also recent events in my own life.  I came to the realization that many people, and even entire nations, live and die by this.

As a more personal example, I recently ceased all contact with someone I have had a relationship with for almost 5 years.  I was frustrated some of the bad decisions she has made and by her actions and inactions involving paramount issues, and she was equally frustrated by mine.  She had concerns/complaints about me which were 100% valid and I had nearly the same concerns/complaints about her which were equally valid.  She pulled back a little, so I pulled back a little, so she pulled back a little further which again caused me do the same.  We got frustrated each others quirks.  We both made mistakes and we got tired of trying to fix them.  It's weird how I can be so assertive with everyone else but for whatever reason, I'm not with her and I cannot really pinpoint why.  It's not good.  She was still willing to occasionally wave hello from across the abyss, which I give her credit for, but the cascade failure had already began.  It was too late.

Borrowing from game theory, I had to take the final step and go with the strategy that benefited both of us the most.  I severed all contact.  Mind you that I did not try to purge her from my existence.  I still have everything she has ever given me.  I have no plans on eliminating her words or pictures.  I'm not secretly speaking disparaging words about her.  I'm not angry with her in the slightest and it was not a "I hate you" move.  The only thing I got rid of was her toothbrush.  I still care for her, but it's not enough.

To affect any kind of change in myself, what I had to do was systematically remove the ability for us to interact with each other.  Perhaps later, if ever, when we have both have had time to formulate a way to resolve our personal issues, we can re-connect.  That time is not now though.  To even try right now would only make things worse.

Maybe everyone else can use all these examples to identify potential causes of cascade failure and be able to avoid them before it's too late.

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