Systemic causation is familiar. Smoking is a systemic cause of lung cancer. HIV is a systemic cause of AIDS. Working in coal mines is a systemic cause of black lung disease. Driving while drunk is a systemic cause of auto accidents. Sex without contraception is a systemic cause of unwanted pregnancies.There is a difference between systemic and direct causation. Punching someone in the nose is direct causation. Throwing a rock through a window is direct causation. Picking up a glass of water and taking a drink is direct causation. Slicing bread is direct causation. Stealing your wallet is direct causation. Any application of force to something or someone that always produces an immediate change to that thing or person is direct causation. When causation is direct, the word cause is unproblematic.Systemic causation, because it is less obvious, is more important to understand. A systemic cause may be one of a number of multiple causes. It may require some special conditions. It may be indirect, working through a network of more direct causes. It may be probabilistic, occurring with a significantly high probability. It may require a feedback mechanism. In general, causation in ecosystems, biological systems, economic systems, and social systems tends not to be direct, but is no less causal. And because it is not direct causation, it requires all the greater attention if it is to be understood and its negative effects controlled.Above all, it requires a name: systemic causation.
Skyldes oversvømmelserne efter skybrud i sommers et særligt kraftigt lavtryk - eller skyldes det klimaforandringerne? Skyldes Dansk Banks katastrofale situation for et par år siden, en inkompetent og grådig bankledelse - eller skyldes det den økonomiske krise?
Kahneman udtrykker det sådan i forbindelse med beskrivelsen af commonsens-tolkninger af sandsynligheder:
The associative mashinery seeks causes. The difficulty we have with statistical regularities is that they call for a different approach. Instead of focusing on how the event at hand came to be, the statistical view relates it to what could have happend instead. Nothing in particular caused it to be what it is - chance selected i from among its alternatives.
The prominence of causal intuition is a recurrent theme in this book because people are prone to applay causal thinking iappropirately, to situations that require statistical reasoning. Statistical thinking derives conclusions about individual cases from properties of categories and ensambles. Unfortunately System 1 does not have the cabability for this mode of reasoning; System 2 can learn to think statistically, but few people receive the necassary training.
På den måde adskiller journalisters selvforståelse sig ikke fra landmænds, der heller ikke kan se deres individuelle bedrift som en del af et system og en professionskultur som samlet er med til at ødelægge miljøet.