The words “I know it” are much more valuable than the words “I knew it”!
Thanks to master storyteller Erik Larson (author of one of my favorite books The Devil in the White City), the 1915 sinking of the Lusitania at the hand of a German submarine will no longer linger at the edges of American memory. I wasn't too familiar with this story and didn't realize the effect it had on the United States decision to abort their intention of staying neutral and enter the first World War. Of the Lusitania’s 1,959 passengers and crew, only 764 survived; the total deaths was 1,195. Among the dead were 123 Americans. Over 600 passengers were never found. The question was posed prior to the sinking: If a British liner full of Americans be blown up, what will Uncle Sam do? Uncle Sam decided to get in on the action!
We often hear about how terrible events could have been averted by the tiniest of decisions and twists of fate. Like many other disasters that occurred over the course of time, there are tons of questions posed. Why wasn't the ship escorted by British destroyers? Why sail amidst the threats of the Germans? If speed was our strength, why was one turbine shut off slowing the ship down by six knots? And the conspiracy theorist believe the British chose not to do this by design. Winston Churchill, second in command of the British Navy at the time, wrote it was “most important to attract neutral shipping to our shores, in the hopes especially of embroiling the US with Germany…we want the traffic- the more the better; and if some of it gets into trouble, better still”. That "trouble" could coax the US into joining their cause. And Churchill desperately needed US assistance and may have been willing to lose thousands of lives to make that happen.
Of course, in the end there is always a certain level of hindsight bias. The Captain of the ship was questioned, and accused by some, of some form of wrongdoing. He made decisions based of the knowledge, or lack thereof, of his journey. Hindsight bias is a term used in psychology to "explain the tendency of people to overestimate their ability to have predicted an outcome that could not possibly have been predicted". In essence, the hindsight bias is often referred to as the "I-knew-it-all-along phenomenon". It is a powerful thought in hindsight but that doesn't help prevent these things from occurring. Mythologist Joseph Campbell once said, "Technology is not going to save us. Our computers, our tools, our machines are not enough. We have to rely on our intuition, our true being". There are survivors and victims out there that explain after the fact that they “unconsciously” knew they were in danger. If they truly knew then what was the unconscious part? Our intuition knows more about a situation than we are consciously aware of. We have the very great advantage of foresight as human beings. Our foresight is developed through pre-incident indicators. These indicators teach us many things and need to be viewed as part of the incident. Some individuals bought tickets for the Lusitania but decided not to partake on the journey. They believed the risks far outweighed the reward and in this instance, they were right! Behavior is like a chain and the process starts way before the act. So I pose the question: Why do we worship hindsight and yet distrust foresight, which actually might make a difference in our lives?
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