One Wrong Turn and a Hundred Million People Die

On the morning of 28 June 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg, were shot dead in Sarajevo by 19-year-old assassin Gavrilo Princip. This launched a series of events that led to World War I, in which more than 16 million people died. This war led to economic calamity and helped bring about the Great Depression, a period that was especially bad in Germany, a nation which had the additional burden of paying war reparations to the winning powers.

The financial hardship, coupled with the “humiliation of Versailles” (the treaty that Germany signed to end the war), led to the rise in German nationalism that helped a former lieutenant named Adolf Hitler come to power. Once again, war raged in Europe and around the world, this time with the death of 60 million people. This second world war ushered in the age of nuclear weapons and its end led directly to the Cold War, which consumed inconceivable amounts of money and almost pushed the world to the brink of nuclear devastation.

How did this happen?

Princip had planned to assassinate Franz Ferdinand that day in 1914, but the plan went bad. Princip gave up and went to Morizt Schiller’s café to have a sandwich. Then something totally unexpected happened. Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s driver, Leopold Loyka, made a wrong turn. He turned onto Franz Josef Street. He was not supposed to have turned there. He drove right in front of a surprised Gavrilo Princip. One can almost picture him, sandwich in hand, slack-jawed in surprise. Loyka realized his mistake and slammed on the brakes. This caused the engine to stall and the gears to lock up. The Archduke, his wife, and Loyka were sitting ducks. Princip seized the opportunity and fired into the open car at a range of five feet. His bullet hit the Archduke in the neck. The archduke’s wife, Sophie, instinctively covered Franz’s body with her own. Princip’s next bullet killed both Franz and Sophie.

War, poverty, misery, and nearly100 million people dead came from what essentially was a single bad piece of data. A single wrong turn. A Garmin would have kept this from happening.

Maybe World War I would have happened anyway. Maybe it was inevitable at that point that there would be some spark setting off the powder keg of Europe. But maybe not. Maybe a bad piece of information did cause 100 million people to die.

Bad information does indeed have a price incalculably high and largely invisible to us. Soon it will be a thing of the past.

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