2203: Prescience

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Lots of people called their ships unsinkable before the Titanic. Voicing your hubris doesn't make failure more likely, just more memorable.
Title text: Lots of people called their ships unsinkable before the Titanic. Voicing your hubris doesn't make failure more likely, just more memorable.


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[Single panel comic showing Cueball sitting in a cushioned chair, reading a book and talking to an off-screen character:]
Cueball: You know, it's been a while since there's been a really big meteor impact.
Off-screen: Will you stop that?!
[Caption below the panel:]
I say this kind of thing every so often, because I don't believe it affects the outcome and it has a slim chance of looking incredibly prescient.

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I can't remember the last time a sitting President has been struck by lightning. 16:09, 16 September 2019 (UTC)

You know, they still haven't attained world peace. 16:34, 16 September 2019 (UTC)

Don't risk it: there is one remarkably easy way to attain world peace. Just fire all nukes. It will be very peaceful some time after they detonate. The mentioned giant meteor impact would also attain world peace ... -- Hkmaly (talk) 22:26, 16 September 2019 (UTC)
I'm sceptical. First of all there's not enough carriers (~4k worldwide, maybe much less; the number is for deployed warheads, not necessarily the deliverable ones) to launch all of the nuclear charges (~14k, deployed + in storage). Second, there's far not enough charges themselves, to cover all population centers, from huge to small, much less all habitable areas. One charge is able to destroy a biggish city or a town and contaminate a considerable area - but there's much more than 14k population centers in the world, even if you somehow manage to plant these 10k warheads that don't have an immediate means of delivery. And there are huge rural and sparsely populated areas. ~14k warheads won't scorch all the lands on Earth. Quite many people out of 7.5 billions will survive - and immediately start wars over scarce resources decimated by the nuclear war. What would be the final outcome including long-term effects of all-out nuclear war is very hard to predict. Maybe humans will go extinct, maybe not. Most certainly, life as such would continue to exist. It would take much more energy to sterilize all the biosphere. -- Malgond (talk) 08:24, 17 September 2019 (UTC)
Not sure. There's not just the immediate destruction, after that comes fallout, nuclear winter, radiation... not to mention the level of dependence on technology many societies have reached today. There might be some survivors in the end but that would probably be some indigenous groups in rural areas near the equator. They might be good at world peace after all. -- 14:04, 29 September 2019 (UTC)

I can't find it right now, but reminds me of the (probably apocryphal) story of a Stanford professor who was on the phone to a colleague at Berkeley. Berkeley guy suddenly says "I gotta go, there's an earthquake!", and hangs up. Stanford walks out into the hall, takes a sip of his coffee, looks at his watch and says "hey, aren't we about due for an earthquake?", right before the tremors hit.UStralian (talk) 16:49, 16 September 2019 (UTC)

+1. I came here explicitly to relate this anecdote! John.Adriaan (talk) 02:02, 17 September 2019 (UTC)
I found a more formal telling of this story in Randall's blag at https://blog.xkcd.com/2011/08/24/earthquakes - "I once heard a story (originally told by Kevin Young) about Gerson Goldhaber, who was a physicist at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. He was talking on the phone with another physicist at SLAC near Stanford University near the end of the day on Tuesday, October 17, 1989..." It turns out the SLAC physicist is the one that reported the earthquake and hung up, and Gerson Goldhaber at Berkeley was the one that impressed others with his earthquake prediction powers. Ianrbibtitlht (talk) 04:19, 18 September 2019 (UTC)

I love the pun in the title between _prescience_ (awareness of the future) and _pre-science_ (before science)... Gidds (talk) 17:17, 16 September 2019 (UTC)

This is the way most tech bloggers operate these days. Throw enough mud up against the wall, and some of it will stick.  Print enough rumors and suppositions, and eventually one of them will prove to be correct.RAGBRAIvet (talk) 20:46, 16 September 2019 (UTC)

The worst example is actually economists. There are some who always predict a downturn. They keep saying it and being proven wrong, year after year...until when one finally comes they're suddenly on all the talking head shows with the host saying "this guy predicted the recession. Now he's going to tell us what's coming next and how to get out of it." — especially if the way to get out of it involves the broken window fallacy of "stimulus spending". — Kazvorpal (talk) 21:52, 16 September 2019 (UTC)

Not sure about unsinkable, but there were several Invincible ships ... -- Hkmaly (talk) 22:48, 16 September 2019 (UTC)

I saw this article awhile ago, which I feel like may have inspired this comic? 22:53, 16 September 2019 (UTC)

Given that Randall has made other comics both like this (see #Trivia) and with end of the world scenario, I do not think he was inspired by some random article from a week before. But it is fine to have it mentioned here in the discussion. --Kynde (talk) 13:19, 18 September 2019 (UTC)
Recent news of the continued deterioration of the Titanic wreck may have inspired the title text - of course, that ship was deemed "virtually unsinkable". 17:33, 20 September 2019 (UTC)

Saying something that have more importance if you are correct reminds me of [this] 04:50, 17 September 2019 (UTC)

What about connecting this and https://xkcd.com/628/, which also discussed Cueball using random coincidence to impress people. 19:35, 17 September 2019 (UTC)
I have added both 525 and 628 and Lupo has since added 858: Milk to a trivia. And all these other three now also have this trivia connecting them. Thanks for remembering. --Kynde (talk) 13:15, 18 September 2019 (UTC)

ESP style prescience can and has been measured by science. The measured value is zero, with tight bounds. 16:50, 20 September 2019 (UTC)