The Perils Of Unforseen Consquences
In September 1911 a British warship HMS Hawke was on patrol when it collided with a passenger liner, the RMS Olympic. The liner was badly damaged and had to go into the repair yard for several months. Not long after returning to duty the Olympic lost a propeller, the result of unrepaired damage from the prior collision. On the surface these incidents seem to be a minor bit of history, except they had some unforeseen consequences.
The first collision forced the line that owned the Olympic to delay the maiden voyage of their new ship, the RMS Titanic. This meant the Titanic would sail during a warmer April, when icebergs would be more common. The second incident caused a reshuffle of crew members on the Titanic as senior men from the Olympic came over. One of the officers who was bumped from the voyage accidentally took a key with him. That key was to the cabinet which held the binoculars for the lookouts.
Had either event not occurred, it is entirely possible that the Titanic would have sailed prior to iceberg season or that the lookouts would have seen the iceberg sooner, and the collision never would have happened. In addition to providing an interesting bit of history this story also illustrates the perils of unforeseen consequences.
For example, when members of both parties in Congress and the White House made a major push to encourage home ownership during the 1990?s, nobody could have foreseen that it would, at least in part, eventually lead to the events we are dealing with today. Or when we supported the growth of the amazing thing called the Internet that it would lead to whole new ways to commit crime.
Obviously in each of these examples (including the Titanic) there were many independent factors at play which led to the problems, but in each case the early (and seemingly unconnected) events did start the ball rolling. It makes you want to consider what things we are doing now that many have future consequences.
Of course if I could answer that question I’d probably be doing something different than writing on a blog.