Survivorship bias is hard coded into us humans, after all we are the ones who did survive millions of years of evolution. We have this inherent deep rooted belief that it’ll all turn out fine in the end. Even our movies and stories tell us so. This is why we have heroes, for these heroes turn it around and we survive.
Except we won’t. It’s just that we don’t know the other stories of when we did not survive. We may have been ten tribes, or a hundred, but maybe only three survived. We know the stories of only us three, or one, because the others are not here to tell us their tales. Their tales of how they found happiness, and them they found a cloud that came to destroy them…and then did. A virus, a new habitat, the smoke from their favourite poisonous root…something killed them…and they were just like us. Just did not make it. We cannot ask the dinosaurs how they could have saved themselves but could not. It might not have been the meteor. Maybe if they had isolated, or masked, or huddled, they would have made it.
They tell us the stories of the planes that came back in world war 2… the ones with holes spattered on the tail. Survivorship bias, they explain, meant that the battered parts of the plane held up. It’s the other planes that never came back that tell us what to do…the ones whose stories could not be recorded because they did not make it. The planes that went down were battered in the weak parts of the plane…taking action on what could not be seen was what saved them. The tails were fine,reinforcing the rest of the planes was how they ensured more planes came back with their pilots safe.
The stories we do not know are the stories that tell us more. What is it that we do not know about those who are being felled by the virus? What is it that we do not know about mutations? What is it that is obvious to us, staring at us right in the face and we refuse to see it? Refuse to do it because we have survived so far without it? Maybe, it is masking up, maybe something else. Even heroes wear shields to battle, and sportspersons wear guards in matches. We are in a competitive game for our lives. The least we can do is shield up.
Or maybe, change our ways totally. There are heroes in survivor stories. We wait for a rescue. To be led. We hope for a messiah. Maybe, heroes and messiahs are, like the holes on the planes, what mislead us into thinking they are part of the solution. Maybe, like the planes, those who have heroes are going to be fine…but for most of us a last minute heroic rescue will not be everyday reality. Maybe, we look to strengthen ourselves where there are no holes, for heroes are not on their way for us.
The strengthening, again like the planes, is internal. We need to strengthen ourselves for a while, if not more, to live rich lives without physical gatherings. Our survival of the fittest special bias tells us we survived because we are gregarious social group and tribe based survivors. Maybe that is misleading and we need to construct different versions of ourselves to make it into the future. Maybe, the misanthropes, the meta verse weirdos, the remote empaths will make it in this wave. I don’t have the answers here, but I do have my doubts. I do doubt whether we are looking in the right place to survive or whether we are deluded by our old stories and hide in comfortable lazy shallow responses, waiting for a hero or a miracle.
The miracle is us. The hero is us, when we go beyond our convictions and find the strength and the humility to overcome our biases. Beyond the evident lies our hope…and we have not found it yet. If we are to survive, we cannot trap ourselves in self belief, arrogance, biases or exceptionalism.
We are special only to ourselves, not to nature. We are taking a battering. Our holes, our doubts are our strength. What we thought were our strengths, our immunities, those are our what will take us down. Our arrogance will take us down, it is not a strength. The bluster will be shot down, our doubts, our vulnerabilities and our questions are the true heroes now – only they can save us.
We may be battered by holes in our shell, but we will make it. As long as we look at them, work it, and call out…hang on, this can’t be right! Hang on.