On the danger of only measuring the first order effects of an intervention

πŸ’Ž On the danger of only measuring the first order effects of an intervention

In 1963, the UC Santa Barbara ecologist and economist Garrett Hardin’ Proposed his First Law of Ecology: β€œYou can never merely do one thing.” We operate in a world of multiple, overlapping connections, like a web, with many significant, yet obscure and unpredictable, relationships. He developed Second-order thinking into a tool, showing that if you don’t consider β€œthe effects of the effects,” you can’t really claim to be doing any thinking at all.

When it comes to the overuse of antibiotics in meat, the first-order consequence is that the animals gain more weight per pound of food consumed, and thus there is profit for the farmer. Animals are sold by weight, so the less food you have to use to bulk them up, the more money you will make when you go to sell them.

The second-order effects, however, have many serious, negative consequences. The bacteria that survive this continued antibiotic exposure are antibiotic resistant. That means that the agricultural industry, when using these antibiotics as bulking agents, is allowing mass numbers of drug-resistant

Excerpt from: The Great Mental Models Volume 1: General Thinking Concepts by Shane Parrish and Rhiannon Beaubien

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