Cumulative Error

Nov 22 / Network Capital
Error breeds error. It only takes one inaccurate statement or one false piece of information to snowball into large-scale misinformation and conspiracy theories. A networked and overly connected society exponentially increases the risks and chances of Cumulative Error.

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Almost all parts of the world today follow the Gregorian calendar. Named after Pope Gregory XIII, it was introduced in the year 1582 to rectify the cumulative error that the Julian calendar had created. While formulating the Julian calendar, the length of the day was miscalculated. This one miscalculation further created a drift in the calculation of important dates like that of the equinox and Easter. After over five centuries of efforts and attempts, this historic case of cumulative error was corrected and the Gregorian calendar came into application. By shortening the average year by 0.0075 days, the Gregorian calendar gave us our modern system of scheduling.

When compared to present-day accounts of cumulative error, the Julian calendar was a much better quandary—we were able to recognize and fix it. In our networked and overly connected lives, fake news and misinformation have become a norm. They continue to grow and remain unchecked. At their best, they create chaos, mistrust and fear-psychosis, and at their worst, they enable extremism, terrorism and violence.

The only way to prevent Cumulative Error is to learn from the experience of creating the Gregorian calendar. We must
(a) Build capability to spot and identify error and misinformation;
(b) Collate correct and accurate information; and
(c) Be relentless in our pursuit of ensuring the original error is replaced from public memory.