A SOLI Original Document.
You won't find it anywhere else.


(c) Copyright 1988, Robert J. Hustwit
As we head into Autumn (always a reflective
time for me), the topic of the spider in her
web seems particularly appropriate, what
with Halloween imagery and all. Even though
the Spider's Statistical Web may sound flip or even frivolous, I assure
you that its explanation is neither.  However, in giving the explanation
I am again facing those uncomfortable horns of dilemma: I have a
great deal to say about the current subject, but only these few pages in
which to say it.  I am stuck with giving a brief explanation which
barely skims the surface of a very significant part of the System Of Life.
When my book is finally written, there will be one full chapter (maybe
more) devoted to the Spider's Statistical Web, so you will understand
that here I can only use the broadest of brush strokes.  Well, here goes.

Let's consider for a moment how the lion survives.  The lion hunts for
food; if the food moves from one place to another, the lion also moves.
The lion, hunting gazelles or zebras, must, every day, follow the herd and
hope that this will be good day for hunting.

{CAVEAT: (that means "warning") I don't really believe that the lion
"hopes" for a "good" day for "hunting."  These are human terms, but for the
purposes of my analogy, I will freely anthropomorphize (look that up in
your F&W) both lions and spiders.  Read on...}

The lion works hard at hunting, using so much energy that a huge portion of
its day, every day, must be spent resting.  When a lion finally does make a
kill, bigger and stronger lions may cut in, taking the "lion's share",
leaving the successful hunter with little or nothing.  And the next day?
Well, the next day the lion has to move on; again hoping for a good day.

Now let us look at the spider, carefully spinning her web.  Once the web is
finished, the spider sits in luxury and style, waiting for dinner.  The
spider relaxes and enjoys life, secure in the knowledge (knowledge
corroborated over hundreds of thousands of years of survival) that the web
she constructed will catch enough food for her to live and prosper.

The spider has constructed a web of statistical probability, honed to near
perfection by millions of years of evolution.  The web takes into account
the types and sizes of insects the spider will live on, even their
population density.  At any given instant, will our spider have food in her
web?  We don't know--she doesn't know.  Will the spider have enough food in
the web in order to survive and prosper over the course of her life?  The
fact that she is here, that the spider has survived all these millennia as
a species, gives us the affirmative answer.

Now to draw the moral from this analogy:

It is possible for us to live our lives happy, content, and secure in the
knowledge that we will survive and prosper without having to undergo the
trauma and stress of going out for the kill every day.  It is possible to
make our lives a self-fulfilling prophecy of success and tranquillity.

We do this by constructing our own statistical web of life.  We build this
web using principles and ideas which, while they may not be perfect
(although there are some perfect principles), will at least provide
positive results more often than negative ones.  Naturally, the more
rational the principles and ideas, the better and more productive is our

If you knew for sure that you could win 51% of the time gambling in Las
Vegas or Atlantic City, you could become wealthy on just that 1%.  "But,"
you say, "if I knew that I'd win 51% of the time it wouldn't be gambling,
it'd be a sure thing."

Exactly.  Small margins of certainty can produce gigantic results, as the
casino owners (and the spiders) will testify.

When we talk about ideas and principles, as opposed to gambling odds, it
becomes even easier to see what works, because we can look with a rational
eye at all of human history.  We can see what principles have worked more
often than they have failed.  We can then, with complete confidence,
incorporate these principles into our statistical web and get on with our
life, secure in the knowledge that we'll be right more often that wrong.
In the area of these principles, at least, we will not have to "re-invent
the wheel" every day.

Again, the more rational the principles and ideas, the more often  we'll be
right, and the better off we'll be.  However, when the inevitable happens,
and we lose (remember, if you win 51% of the time, you also lose 49% of the
time), then the error, the loss becomes much easier for us to bear because
we see it in the context of a basically correct, basically right, certainly
winning life.

So, will we be right?  Will we win at any given instant in our lives?  We,
none of us, can answer that in advance.  But we can say with certainty that
if we have built our statistical web on rational principles and ideas, we
will ultimately be right, we will ultimately win.  That confidence, that
optimism alone, even if there were no other benefits (there are), make the
web worth while.

The Spider's Statistical Web, then, is nothing more than a word picture to
illustrate a principle.  The principle is this:  You don't have to be
right, you don't have to win every time in order to succeed, in order to be
happy.  You only have to be right or to win more often or to a greater
degree than you fail, or lose.  As a matter of fact, in an upcoming
discussion, it will be seen that it is absolutely imperative to your
survival that you sometimes fail, sometimes lose.  Anyway, if you accept
the basic principal of the statistical web, you can derive something else
equally beneficial from it: if you have something in your life that is
working more often than not, but you're still not happy with it because you
believe you can do better, stop!  You can afford to leave it alone and
concentrate on some other aspect of your life that is not working as well.
You don't need to divert time and energy from the needed project to the one
that is already statistically productive.  In this way you can gradually
improve your life...fixing and renovating ideas and principles that are
working poorly, re placing ones that actually don't work with ones that do,
and then improving the quality of those that are already working for you.

After you have fixed things that aren't working well in your life, you
finally get to this area of your life that you wish to improve.  You find
that, since everything else is working just fine, you can concentrate all
of your psychological energies on this one area, producing extraordinary

Just how we find the principles and ideas we wish to integrate into our
statistical web, how we modify or "renovate" existing ones, is another
subject, and hopefully we can address it in future issues of the System Of
Life Informer.

A final word about my use of analogies.  When I talk about lions and
spiders, I am speaking philosophically, not as a naturalist.  To the best
of my ability, I choose analogies that accurately make my point, but you
must not try to carry the analogies further than I do...they may not work.
For those of you really thinking about the lion/spider analogy, you may
realize that the lion also survives with the same type of statistical
certainty and for the same evolutionary reasons as the spider.  For the
purposes of the analogy, however, I have portrayed the spider as relaxing
in luxury and style, waiting for the food to come to her, while the lion
has to "go shopping" every day.  I realize that this anthropomorphization
isn't true to nature, but it does help me to make my point.  I offer the
same explanation for any inaccuracies I may have inadvertently included
regarding the habits of lions or spiders.  Please remember that I am using
words and word pictures to try to get across ideas which are in my mind;
the analogies I use are important and relevant only insofar as they help in
that task.