Friday, November 23, 2007

There is luck, but nobody is lucky

Luck is an unpredictable parameter that can bias results of experiments to produce highly unlikely outcomes. Any circumstance in day-to-day life can be called an experiment with some outcome. When somebody digs a well and lands a pot of gold, people would say it was sheer luck. Luck can go both ways - you could have good luck as above or you could have bad luck - like when getting run over by a car.

So luck could be mathematically defined as an incalculable parameter in an experiment where a highly unlikely outcome occurred. More simplistically it is a phenomenon that causes occurrences of low probability events. Now that we have defined luck we can take a look at another related term - lucky. A person is called lucky if he has luck acting in his favor more often than not and unlucky if otherwise.

Somebody being lucky would then imply that when he/she is the actor in an experiment the outcome would more likely be favorable than not. Consider a simple experiment as tossing a coin. If somebody is inherently lucky he should have a higher than expected percentage of successful outcomes when a coin is tossed n times. Additionally even if the experiment was repeated a similar result should be observed. As a corollary an unlucky person should see a higher than expected percentage of failures.

But the above explanation about "being lucky" does not sound reasonable. If the coin was tossed by a third person, how in the world would the lucky person have possibly affected the outcome of a toss. If this possibility have to be accepted then we will have to accept a metaphysical relationship between the person and the coin. Under a system of rational, physical analysis this does not sound very plausible.

Thus, even though we have defined luck, we have concluded that you can't be lucky nor unlucky. So those of you who have been blaming your luck, do please stop doing that and those of you who have been attributing outcomes to luck also likewise.


  1. lucky ,could also be a person (defined as), when in the process of having experimented multiple times and having landed the coin in his favour more no: of times than those who tried lesser no: of times.... though it would be attributed to luck by all else, it could be sheer persistance and hardwork which worked in the favour of the so called 'lucky'!!!

  2. If probability of success can be increased through a parameter that you can control through hard work and persistence then 'luck' as such does not have to play a role. For example if somebody runs a 100m race in 9.5s you don't need to bring luck into the picture and it wouldn't make sense. Now let us consider something as impartial as tossing a coin. Suppose a person is asked to make a selection - either heads or tails and the coin is tossed a large number of times, then it shouldn't theoretically matter whether a 'so called lucky' person makes the call or a 'so called unlucky' person makes the call. The number of positive outcomes would only depend on the bias of the coin and should be independent of the person making the call.