The “Miracle” of Probability
Here’s a cool visual breakdown of the probability of your individual existence.
It certainly is amazing and humbling to consider the odds against your particular genetic arrangement occurring, but this perspective fails to appreciate how our solipsism distorts our perception of probability. This chart is essentially mapping the genetic lottery where you are the winner. But think of a real lottery with 18 million players. Sure, the odds that your individual ticket being picked is incredibly low: 1 in 18,000,000. Yet, the lottery must pick someone to win. The odds of someone winning are 100%. It’s hardly a miracle every time someone wins a game that there is 100% chance that someone will win the game.
Our impulse to feel special sometimes sets us up for scam artists. Here’s a fun clip from mentalist Derren Brown’s TV show that illustrates the nature of probability.
Just as the odds that Khadisha, specifically, wins all the racing bets are astonishingly small we know that someone has to win. It just happens, by chance, to be Khadisha. The odds of you, specifically, winning the genetic lottery seem miraculously tiny, but as long as people are reproducing new genetic combinations will be formed. If you hadn’t been born and someone else “won” they’d be looking at the staggering odds thinking they were just as improbable. As long as it’s not impossible, even the vanishingly improbable will happen if given enough chances.