When the Dark Knight rises profound human behavior questions

Good evening everybody,

I decided to take a few minutes to write this post as I witnessed today two incredible things as I went to the Swiss premiere of “Batman: The Dark Knight Rises”.

First of all, the movie itself; it’s astonishing. I really liked it. I don’t usually go to the theater to watch movies these days as I think the quality is not worth the price anymore in most cases. However, as I’m a big fan of Batman, especially of the latest trilogy – and especially the last opus -, I just couldn’t resist. The last time I remember enjoying a movie in a cinema was for “Batman: The Dark Knight”, and I was really scared to be disappointed by this one. Obviously, I wasn’t; it was 160 minutes of mind-blowing sensational action combining surprise and emotion. I’m not gonna spoil any of it, trust me, just go and watch it.

As we all know, the release of the movie was overshadowed by the atrocious killings that occurred in the US at the premiere a few nights ago. I fully understand the emotion that can arise from such tragedy but today I witnessed a clear example of human irrationality and misinterpretation of available variables. Let me explain. As we entered the theater, there were a few security guards searching people for, I suppose, weapons and tear gas. Seriously, how ridiculous is that?

If we analyze mathematically the reasoning beyond such a pathetic display, we see the following steps. A guy, who is mentally unstable, in a country where you are allowed to buy weapons and who was just dumped by his girlfriend killed a dozen people and injured 50 in a movie theater at the premiere of a Batman movie. A year ago, Anders Behring Breivik, also remote to the society, killed even more people on an island. A few years back killings occurred at the Columbine High School. What are the common variables here? Well, from what I’ve witnessed today, some people think that the movie where the killings occurred was a determining variable.

It is really incredible how irrational people can be and it is another great example of how we can miss the big picture by focusing our attention on some noisy irrelevant variables. You can clearly see this happens in financial markets: even though the macro-economic outlook is bad, a single speech can trigger a market rally which will of course turn around straightaway as the underlying fundamental problem was not solved.

This is my food-for-thought of the day, but it might really be the ultimate problem of our modern society.  I don’t pretend to be able to enumerate what the reasons behinds the various killings are, but I would certainly not look at the specific movie that was shown in the movie theater when the tragedy happened. Maybe the guy had a blue shirt, maybe the guy ate a cheeseburger that day, should we avoid blue shirts? should we stop eating cheeseburgers?

A theory which I think is really plausible, is that these catastrophes occur purely randomly: you just can’t predict them, it’s just noise. Whichever source you might identify – video games, violent movies, political regimes, financial systems, social unrest, poverty – and even if you removed them all, it is possible that some individual are just inherently bad and will provoke chaos. I will add a few quotes from the Joker in “Batman: the Dark Knight” which illustrate the kind of personality I’m referring to:

[The Joker] I just did what I do best. I took your little plan and I turned it on itself. Look what I did to this city with a few drums of gas and a couple of bullets. Hmmm? You know… You know what I’ve noticed? Nobody panics when things go “according to plan.” Even if the plan is horrifying! If, tomorrow, I tell the press that, like, a gang banger will get shot, or a truckload of soldiers will be blown up, nobody panics, because it’s all “part of the plan”. But when I say that one little old mayor will die, well then everyone loses their minds!

[The Joker] Introduce a little anarchy. Upset the established order, and everything becomes chaos. I’m an agent of chaos. Oh, and you know the thing about chaos? It’s fair!

[The Joker] Do I really look like a guy with a plan? You know what I am? I’m a dog chasing cars. I wouldn’t know what to do with one if I caught it! You know, I just… *do* things.

I guess everybody can choose his theory: either catastrophes are completely random or you can try to predict it. It’s like in financial markets: either markets are efficient (and you should just optimize you risk adjusted return) or they are not (and it makes really sense to do some active management).

In anyway, the bottom line is: focus on meaningful variables, and forget the noise.