Sunday, August 2, 2009

Sod's Law

I propose that Sod's Law is a very pessimistic idea. It implies that there are situations that reality just imposes on us, that we aren't responsible for and can't do anything about. But as Popper says, "The future is open. It is not predetermined and thus cannot be predicted - except by accident. The possibilities that lie in the future are infinite." I don't think that Sod's Law is compatible with Popper's view of reality.

If you imagine a situation in which something happens that you would prefer did not happen—let's say, your interesting friend phones you at precisely the same time that your favorite TV show starts. That is Sod's Law.

Now, let's imagine potential solutions. You could ask your friend to hang on a moment, record your TV show (perhaps you have TiVo, which would be convenient), and continue the phone call. You could ask your friend quickly if you can call them back later, and then watch your TV show. You could revise your opinion of the TV show and decide that you didn't really care about it anyway. You could watch the TV show again on Youtube. You could ask your friend to talk to you on AIM instead, and then continue the conversation via IM whilst watching the TV show. You could ask your friend to email to you whatever it was they wanted to say, and then respond to the email when the TV show is finished.

There are more solutions that one could come up with. But there's quite a lot up there that take less than sixty seconds to implement, so let's imagine that one of them is suitable for you. You have solved the problem, and Sod's Law is no longer in effect, because you are no longer being inconvenienced.

Complaining about Sod's Law is irrational. You can just think about the problem and solve it and then it doesn't exist any more. That is a rational way to behave. Throwing yourself at the mercy of situations and refusing to apply any creativity to them, and then complaining that reality is in some way inherently harmful or unpleasant in some percentage of situations (which is what Sod's Law means) isn't a very good policy.