Life is Random


Sounds like a Captain Obvious statement. As previously stated, you do not need this blog.

But we actually tend to believe that we can control life events or at least some of them.

Randomness in life is usually evoked when we experience failure and we call ourselves in control when success strikes. But events cannot be predicted. All we can do is arrange so the odds are in our favor. There is also the cases when we obeyed all the rules and then are rewarded with what seems a success when it is a natural outcome. Give your banker all the guarantees he asked for and you will get your loan. That is not control or randomness, it is just following the rules. Control is whether or not you take the loan. Randomness is in what rate you get.

Even trapped in the most repetitive boring life, one cannot predict what will happen in the short or long term. What happens when the predicted event is not matching our prediction, is that we tend to forget the said prediction, dismiss the event or rearrange the reality so it matches our expectations.

Say I am a corporate employee and I claim that I will be eating lunch at my desk tomorrow at 1pm. As corporate employees know, that is not a risky bet. Yet, if I happen to start lunch at 1:05pm, I will not call it a failed prediction. If some useless occupation prompted me to delay lunch, I will blame someone else. I may even blame the randomness of life for it, forgetting that I tried to bet against it. Of course, knowing that I made that prediction, I can try to take control and make sure to start lunch on time regardless of what came across my desk. That is admitting that life is random and arranging the odds in my favor. I would then certainly succeed at having lunch on time but that became a project and no longer a prediction. Had I left the natural course of things unfold, I may or may not have lunch at 1pm the next day.

Life is full of randomness and we adjust to it by making approximations. And most of the time all is fine because we have a lot of leeway. Commute has its vagaries, but we eventually get home. All that happened during that trip is reduced to one word, commute. Mini events usually cancel each others and we basically get home about the same time. Notice how words like “usually”, “basically” and “about” feel so natural here. They just round the edges, blur the differences, truncate the out of ordinary.

So far we did not make a point here. So here it is.

There is a part of your life you have control of, and there are things that cannot be predicted. Having a clearer view of what is due to randomness and what is due to control and personal initiative is crucial to be able to live a better life.

It is important to acknowledge the random nature of life to understand how the world really works and to accept and prepare for Rare Events. The Rare Events are what give life its direction. The Rare Event is meeting your soul mate during commute, being fired, being mugged, being offered a major opportunity. Rare Events seem random, extremely unlikely, totally unexpected and even impossible, yet they are just another combination of the same deck being dealt one more time. Some Rare Events are super-storms, stock market crashes, floods of the century, life extinction meteors but also mastery of fire by mankind, appearance of language among humans or royal flushes in poker.

People who understood randomness invented insurances, mortgages, jackpots and lottery winnings to profit from the existence of rare events. Seeking certainty in randomness, men created all kind of things, from cults and religions to sciences and technologies to laws and rules. Nothing has been left behind in the quest of control of randomness.

Hence the necessity to understand the true nature of life and the world.

Thank you