People like to talk about cause and effect. Correlation is not causation.

But even causes are not equal.

person try to catch water
Photo by Javardh on Unsplash

There are proximate causes and then there are actual causes.

Consider a person who is suffering from alcoholism, the proximate cause is that they keep drinking. The solution would be to stop drinking. Let us shame the person for having no control.

But the actual cause might be genetic or a family history of drinking or stress or some other reason. You need to solve the actual cause to solve the issue, just asking a person to stop drinking is not the solution.

In the case of climate change, our fossil fuel use is often cited as a cause but the actual cause is consumption itself. Fossil fuel or not, if consumption has to keep growing, we will keep increasing the factors that lead to global warming.

I was writing this short post when I came across a news article. Before that some context…

Kota is this educational penal colony where people send their kids to prepare for the IIT-JEE which is the entrance exam for the Indian Institute of Technology. It is akin to getting into the Ivy League. If you get in, you get a lot of resume virtue. But the competition is intense and the pressure is insane. Students at Kota have been known to commit suicide due to extreme pressure. Their preferred method involves hanging by the fan.

So a proximate cause was established and a solution was found.

Worried by a spate of suicides by hanging, the authorities in this coaching hub have taken a desperate measure – ordering hostels to install a spring device on ceiling fans to stop students from taking their lives.

The “anti-suicide measure” was discussed on August 12 at a meeting between Kota officials and other stakeholders. On Wednesday, Deputy Commissioner O.P. Bunkar issued the directions, demanding strict compliance.

Source: The Hindu

If the fans are spring-loaded, hanging oneself would not be possible. Problem solved. 

Actual cause be damned. 

Here is another example.

Now that generative AI models can produce photorealistic, fake images of child sexual abuse, regulators and child safety advocates are worried that an already-abhorrent practice will spiral further out of control. But lost in this fear is an uncomfortable possibility—that AI-generated child pornography could actually benefit society in the long run by providing a less harmful alternative to the already-massive market for images of child sexual abuse.

Source: WIRED

Actually benefit society! What the actual fuck!






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