Coincidences are so common

I have written before about how common coincidences are and just yesterday I had another example. I have been retired for over a year and I had not spoken with my university’s computer security person for at least a year before I retired but after I wrote my post on Congress’s move to allow ISPs to sell our data without permission and how VPNs might thwart that, I emailed him to ask what kind of security the university’s VPN system that I use provided. I then got an email back giving a time when he would call to discuss this and, as he said, ‘other matters’.

When we spoke, he thanked me for contacting him in response to his reaching out to me a day earlier when he had left a voicemail message on my phone. He said that he had contacted me and left a message because he wanted to discuss an issue of computer security with me. I was puzzled by this because I had not received any such message from him and my reaching out to him had been entirely of my own volition. I later checked to find that after upgrading my phone in February (to one that is a hand-me-down from my daughter which is how I usually upgrade) the voicemail notification feature was not working, although voicemails were being recorded.

Thanks to this incident, I became aware of the problem and it is now fixed. But if I believed in things like telepathy, this coincidence would have reinforced that belief and this is why such beliefs are so hard to kill off. People think that they have actual evidence in support of it, not realizing that one has to weigh this piece of positive evidence against the negative evidence that so many potential coincidences that could have happened, haven’t happened.


  1. says

    what kind of security the university’s VPN system that I use provided

    Since it’s a private VPN, it’s probably pretty decent. If the FBI wants your data they’ll just ask the University nicely.

  2. says

    Google “Mental Telegraphy” and “Mental Telegraphy Again” by Mark Twain. He was skeptical about a lot of things, but apparently not this.

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