Counterfeiting and the Butterfly Effect

May 21, 2010 § Leave a comment


If a butterfly flaps its wings in some dank Manhattan alleywhere tourists trade crumpled bills for counterfeit handbags, will the breezecreated by the insect cause a tornado in Texas?

Now, you probably expect to hear this type of question late in the evening at some artists commune, but while it may seem a bit off the trodden path, the question actually has to do with a theory that is very relevant to our anticounterfeiting work known as the Butterfly Effect.

The Butterfly Effect is a way of explaining unpredictable behavior in otherwise predictable systems. As with all theories, it can seem quite complex, but at a more simple level it tries to make sense of how slight differences in a system’s original state can cause a plethora of different outcomes, as in “Would you say that I have a plethora of piñatas?”

For instance, when a raindrop lands on your forearm, the direction that it will fall depends on a number of factors. If a single hair is pointing in one direction, the drop will slalom in a certain way, but if that same hair is moved just a bit, the water will trickle in a completely different direction. There are many factors that determine the outcome, even in a smaller “system” like our droplet’s whose course is also affected by things like skin temperature, and the pulse of the vessels just beneath the dermis.

Unless you’re wearing a coat of body paint for an Avatar-theme potluck, raindrops shouldn’t be a concern. But, we should be worried about what goes into our larger personal “system.” Just like a particularly coarse arm hair, if you include a fake in your mix, it will have a significant effect on those around you.

If you willingly sport the cheap, oozy leather of a fake handbag, it is crucial to know that the consequences reach far beyond a poor aesthetic choice. When you spend money on a fraud, it encourages whoever is cooking the poison to keep the fire burning. When you buy fake, the message to the criminal manufacturers and distributors is clear: make more and continue with the abuse.

If your “system” has a corrupt set of original factors, it will alter the way you act with others, and just like a droplet sitting on top of a coarse arm hair, a counterfeit in your life will change your outcomes.

As you recall the ground-breaking research of Dan Ariely and his colleagues that demonstrated how wearing fakes makes a person less likely to behave ethically, you understand how important it is to pick the right factors in your life and exclude the fakes.

So, consider two things: (i.) each item you include in your daily routine has an effect on the outcome of your day, and (ii.) your behavior creates a domino effect that influences the behavior and experience of countless others.

With so many of our interactions, events, goings-on, and general high jinks affected by unseen factors and shaped by those items we have in our lives, why risk those around you knowing that fakes poison a system the very moment they enter it.

The purchase of counterfeit goods perpetuates abuse. And it puts your friends and family in jeopardy as well. It would be easy to write this off as an insignificant, unlikely slice of sensationalism, but I’m not talking about an average person transforming into some thug because they bought a fake broach. This is about behavior that is slight, occurs in increments, and is insidious. This isn’t blunt force behavioral trauma. The change is gradual and deceptive. So make your choices wisely.

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