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Law of Unintended Consequences

Posted Jan 15 2009 7:50pm

The "law of unintended consequences" (also called the "law of unforeseen consequences") states that any purposeful action will produce some unintended consequences. This maxim is not a scientific law; it is more in line with Murphy's law.

Taken from wikipedia's page on Unintended Consequence.

Wikipedia gives a number of examples of this law, but I like to think of my own. The father who punishes his son for a wrong-doing doesn't expect that his son will turn around and take out his frustration on a younger sibling or by kicking the dog. It happens, it is unintended and it is a direct result of the father's intended action.

There are also good unintended consequences though we tend to look at those occasions as "serendipity", sometimes coincidence. For example, 15 years ago I was laid off from a job in another city. I was being replaced by a computer in 6 months. During that time I had to learn this new system. 3 months after I had left my job, I was able to secure another one (which has evolved into my current position) because I knew this particular computer system. The purposeful action of learning a particular computer system that was replacing me (I could have left at any point after the layoff notice) led me to the unintended consequence of landing another job.

Similarly, what we decide to do with information will have its own unintended consequences. I began this blog for a number of reasons. First, I have a story to tell and continue to be told. Second, I wanted to be a writer when I was a teenager, so this has become an outlet for that desire. Third, while I will not attend self help groups, I consider my fellow MS bloggers my own self help group and I want to contribute as much as I take. Fourth, I read everything I am able to about MS, auto-immune disease in general, and neurology. I need help with the processing of some of this information and have sources I can go to on line for further clarification or for personal stories of drug treatment and what to expect. These are the main reasons I began this blog.

After writing for a couple of months I began to think that maybe someone, somewhere, is going to read something I may have written that will be a starting point for them to unlock the puzzle of MS. If that happens it will be an unintended consequence, but one for which I'll be very happy. Are there MS researchers reading our blogs? Who knows? At least some in the pharmaceutical industry are reading Lisa's blog, so that's a start. And maybe some drug rep who reads Lisa's blog, will read an entry that sparks an idea, that sparks an action, etc.....


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