Friday, September 06, 2013

Happiness, Luck, Probability, and other Lost Causes.

Happy thought of the day - we base way too much of our happiness on things that don't matter, and / or are beyond our control.

One of my favorite Android time-wasters is a game called Dope Wars. It's a buy-low / sell-high affair, except what you're buying and selling is drugs. Cops, pimps, guns, banks, and loan sharks are thrown in for good measure, along with a (standard play) thirty-day time limit. The only way to make a killing is to be lucky enough to have something in your inventory sell at "unusual prices."

Now, since the prices each day are random, you can say that if you make a killing, you have "good luck" and if you wind up in debt, you have "bad luck" (I personally consider anything over ten million dollars a win.) But what does this mean? There is no such thing as random. When a computer picks a number at random, what it's actually doing is picking a number based on an algorithm with a seed based on the thousandth of a second in which the request is made. This is impossible for a human to time, so the result seems random.

If you're a compulsive person and play the game a lot, this can affect your mood. You can be happy and feel validated that you have "good luck" if you win, or, more often (since the algorithm is slated that way to make the game more challenging) you have "bad luck" if you lose - which can piss you the fuck off and make a bad day worse.

All because of the thousandth of a second in which you tapped that button.

Something to think about.


No comments: