Pandemics are Never Random, Thanks to Benoit Mandelbrot

How do we make sense of the uncertainty around us?

Edneil Jocusol

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Quantum physics human brain waves fractal
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

A pandemic on this scale is never an accident. It is meant to happen, we just don’t know when.

The pain of death for the fallen victims of the coronavirus is excruciating. Not to mention the hole it left in the hearts of their bereaved families and friends. From a daughter who lost a medical frontliner mom, to a parent who was never allowed to visit his son in the COVID-19 ward, only to come back as ashes inside the urn. This black swan of an event is utterly devastating. No matter how hard I carefully try to rephrase my words and write a lighter statement, it won’t be enough. But a pandemic on this scale is never an accident. It is meant to happen. We just don’t know when.

One night, while I was reading The Black Swan by Nassim Taleb, I stumbled upon a radical concept I couldn’t get out of my head. It’s about the geometry of irregular shapes, which is used to understand the world’s unpredictable events. In my mind, I asked, “how on earth could someone create a formula that can produce infinite geometrical shapes in a finite space?” In layman’s term, imagine zooming in an Instagram image infinitely many times, and yet that image never runs out of shapes and patterns to show you. That is the Mandelbrot equation.

In 1980, a French-American mathematician, Benoit Mandelbrot, invented fractal geometry. Fractal means irregular shapes like clouds, snowflakes, sea waves, or mountains. During that time, he was working at IBM as a research fellow who would later change how the world sees randomness and uncertainty. Like Einstein, Mandelbrot is known for a very simple equation:

Mandelbrot fractal equation

For the love of human language, I will not discuss the complex mathematical theorems to prove this formula. A lot has already been written about this. My goal is to relate this simple equation with the behavior of the current pandemic that is draining all of us emotionally, socially, and physically. We will discover the significance of this complex…

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Edneil Jocusol

I write my observations on society, business/entrepreneurship, and technology/engineering.