Documenting the Coming Singularity

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Miraculous Devaluation

Yogi Berra once said "The future ain't what it used to be." Very true. Something else ain't what it used to be: Miracles. I'm not complaining, really, only making an observation. These days every fortuitous event is called a miracle if it's the least bit unusual. Didn't used to be that way.

Consider some of the grand miracles of old. There's the parting of the Red Sea. I saw it for myself in the movie The Bible, with Charlton Heston as Moses. Very cool. What about the collapse of the walls of Jericho, with the Jericho-ites left wandering around in aimless confusion? Or the stopping of the Sun in the sky for a day? Man, those were the days of miracles! And how about Lazarus coming out of his tomb after being dead long enough for the balmy fragrance of his putrefaction to have permeated the immediate vicinity? Forget about it! Awesome!

What do we have for miracles now?

Two young women and a baby had a miraculous escape this morning after their Ashington flat was gutted by fire.

The first floor property, located above Victoria's takeaway in Station Road, was severely damaged in the blaze which broke out in the early hours of the morning. The females, aged 17 and 19-years-old, and an 18-month-old baby were awoken by the noise of the fire downsatirs and found the flat full of smoke. After shouting for help out of a window but getting no response, they wrapped themselves in blankets and crawled to safety. - Blyth & Wansbeck, March 17, 2007

'Miraculous Recovery' For Bus Crash Victim

ATLANTA -- Only one of the three Bluffton University baseball players still hospitalized in Atlanta remains in critical condition, but his father says his son is making a "miraculous recovery."

Rob Berta said yesterday that his son, 22-year-old Tim Berta, is still listed in critical condition because he is hooked up to a respirator at Grady Memorial Hospital. The senior and student coach from Ida, Michigan, sustained internal injuries including bleeding on his brain when a charter bus wrecked March 2 in Atlanta.

Four players from the school in northwest Ohio, the bus driver and the driver's wife were killed when the bus plowed off an overpass and crashed onto Interstate 75 below. A fifth player died Friday. - Action News 2, March 12, 2007

Man Jumps Overboard And Survives

Coast Guard crews say it's miraculous a 35-year-old man is alive after he reportedly jumped from a Port Canaveral-based cruise ship off Fort Lauderdale.

The Coast Guard says Michael Mankamyer was found Friday morning about eight hours after he was reported overboard.

A witness said the man was drunk when he jumped from the balcony in his room and into the water.

The Coast Guard says he fell 60 feet and they don't know how he managed to survive. He was airlifted to the hospital with mild hypothermia but is otherwise in good condition. - Central Florida News 13, March 16, 2007

I don't know about you, but this is pretty disappointing to me. A drunk jackass jumps off a cruise ship into the ocean and survives? One critically injured kid survives while 5 others die from a bus driving off an exit ramp. Two women living in an apartment with no smoke detectors are rescued by firefighters. These are all very nice, and I'm happy for the fortunate people who lived through their ordeals (some self-imposed, mind you). But people survive ordeals every day of the week. Calling these things miracles sort of cheapens the word, don't you think?

J. E. Littlewood, Cambridge University professor, framed Littlewood's Law, which sort of explains what's happened to miracles these days. Littlewood's Law states that individuals can expect a miracle to happen to them at the rate of about one per month.

" seeks, inter alia, to debunk one element of supposed supernatural phenomenology and is related to the more general Law of Truly Large Numbers, which states that with a sample size large enough, any outrageous thing is likely to happen. Littlewood's law, making certain suppositions, is explained as follows: a miracle is defined as an exceptional event of special significance occurring at a frequency of one in a million; during the hours in which a human is awake and alert, a human will experience one thing per second (for instance, seeing the computer screen, the keyboard, the mouse, the article, etc.); additionally, a human is alert for about eight hours per day; and as a result, a human will, in 35 days, have experienced, under these suppositions, 1,008,000 things. Accepting this definition of a miracle, one can be expected to observe one miraculous occurrence within the passing of every 35 consecutive days -- and therefore, according to this reasoning, seemingly miraculous events are actually commonplace."

Thus is explained the phenomenon I have termed Miraculous Devaluation. Remember, you heard it here first.