Steve Titus had been on a date with his girlfriend, in Seattle.
Later, at home, he was arrested for rape.
Not the rape of his girlfriend, the rape of a completely different woman.
He was arrested because his car was the same make and colour as the rapist’s car.
He was put in a police identity parade.
When the woman was shown the line-up she said he was probably the closest there.
Later, in court under oath, she changed that to: he was absolutely, definitely the man who raped her.
Steve Titus was convicted.
But a journalist on a local paper was convinced he was innocent.
And after a year, the journalist tracked down the real rapist.
The man confessed to the rape, and then confessed to another fifty unsolved rape cases.
Steve Titus’s conviction was quashed.
But by this time he’d lost his job, his girlfriend, his life savings, and died of a heart attack.
Aged thirty five.
For me the real issue is the woman who identified Steve Titus as her rapist.
How could she go from “He’s probably the closest” to “He is absolutely, definitely the man who raped me”?
Across America they subsequently discovered three hundred men in jail for crimes they didn’t commit.
Men who had spent decades in prison, even years on death row.
Men who had all been positively identified by witnesses.
Until DNA evidence proved they were not the people who committed the crimes.
So all those identifications were false.
Proving the mind is fallible, in fact worse than that.
We think memory is stored but it isn’t, it’s created.
Just the way a computer keeps updating its software.
The old memory is erased, the new one replaces it.
No matter how positive we are about the facts, they aren’t facts.
And if the mind can’t know the past, how can it possibly know the future?
Recently I was watching TV and a ‘futurologist’ came on.
That was new one on me: futurologist.
Apparently it means an expert on predicting what will happen.
But of course he couldn’t really do that.
All he did was point to trends.
There will be more of this, there will be less of that, this thing will become more important, that thing will become less important.
All he told us is what we can already see happening.
While the real future will be what we can’t see.
Steve Jobs was fond of quoting Henry Ford on predictions.
“If I’d asked people what they wanted they would have said faster horses.”
Whatever the future is, it won’t be anything we can predict.
Because the mind can’t tell us what hasn’t happened yet.
The only possible hope for that is intuition.
Intuition can take us where predictable, formulaic logic can’t.
Steve Jobs knew that.
So did his hero, Akio Morita, the founder of Sony.
He said “The biggest assistance I’ve had is the total failure of nerve on the part of western businessmen to make a move without research.”
Now matter how many times the mind is proved wrong, we trust it over intuition.
That’s our superstition.