Friday, April 28, 2006

Asteroids vs. Lottery

Scientists and mathematicians will point out that the probablity of winning the lottery is less than that of getting hit by an asteroid, and therefore it is irrational to buy lottery tickets. They base the figures on the probability that a given person will win the lottery or will be killed by and asteroid. Well, I can't deny the odds of winning the lottery are so low, it is not really raional to buy them; I also admit I buy one about once a week.

However, the scientists ignore some basic facts. The odds that any particular person (this means you) will win the lottery tomorrow are extremely low. However, the odds are 100 percent that SOMEONE will win the lottery, if not tomorrow, then in the near future. Whereas the odds that an asteroid will kill ANYBODY in the near future is very low. So I would argue it makes more sense to buy a lottery ticket than to buy insurance against getting hit by an asteroid.

However, in the long run, the odds are probably 100 percent that the earth will eventually be hit by an asteroid big enough to devastate life on earth, unless we develop means to detect and prevent this from happening. I wish I were more optimistic that our civilization will last long enough to do so; looking at the past history of human behaviour, and our current actions, I fear we are in the process of self-destructing. Society has gone in cycles of progress and decay many times, but what makes thing different now is our technology, and what we are doing with it.

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