Why is it that we panic? I mean, does panic serve a purpose to mankind's evolution or survival?
I got into work a few minutes early, having had two calls (which I rejected) on my phone whilst cycling in. I knew we should be in early because there had been problems the night before (not least with the damn Nachi virus). Since our customer works in a timezone an hour ahead, we should have been in early.

So, the panic's already started by 8.30am or so. By 10.30 it's reaching fever pitch. Literally everyone in the company is aware of what's going on, and probably 80% of us are talking about it. You'll note, there's not a great deal actually happening, but there's a whole load of talking.

Meanwhile, our customer is doing the same. We're all receiving emails and calls about X, Y and Z problems, theories, ideas, workarounds etc etc. Since they're hitting all of us with this, we're all reacting, mostly by reciprocating the panic.

By 11.00am, we've figured out the problem - something (outside of our control) wasn't working on the customer's systems. It's not hard to fix, or infact to identify, but since we didn't get any logs or other solid information until 10.30, the panic ahead of it got to stupid levels.

So, why do we panic? I mean, surely it's self destructive. I can't see it's got any evolutionary benefit, possibly even the opposite. Surely, hunter-gatherer man who kept his head and didn't panic lived longer.Perhaps panic has been bred out of humans? Perhaps it's being allowed the bred back in as well? I mean, natural selection doesn't really happen any more (at least in the first world).

I wonder if panic is a modern issue, and not one that affected our ancestors. If you're hunting or hunted, if a problem presents itself, the result is going to be pretty immediate - you live or die. In the modern world, where problems are more complex, the resolution may take time, the lack of information about the problem raises more questions, which results in panic. Of course, the little bit of information you do have probably makes it worse, because you think you know it all, when of course you know a tiny fraction.

Clearly the key to such stuations is clear thinking and measured response. It's hard to do - everyone wants to be reactionary. This morning, I thought I was thinking clearly about it all, and to a degree I was, but those that I would credit with better perception and abilities were panicing all over the place. So, here in the aftermath, I'm wondering if I did okay, or not. I know that if I had been closer to the problems, I probably would have been worse at it. It's easy to get annoyed about this, but really pretty hard to judge too harshly.

Submitted by coofercat on Tue, 2003-09-02 15:44