Stephen Sekula

Stephen Sekula at

"What's my dream?" asks a giant billboard outside Minneapolis, touting the latest lottery pots. My dream is that every American learns just enough math and statistics to understand that you're bullshit, and that saving that money is better than spending it on a statistical improbability.

Evan Prodromou, Stephen Michael Kellat, a(n) person, jrobb likes this.

Stephen Michael Kellat shared this.

I think there's a really dense cluster of concepts there. First, I think people have an unrealistic concept of "success" - that it only includes having a huge house with 4 swimming pools and a garage full of Bentleys. Maybe that's a good sign, but it might also be a bad indication that there's not much societal hope for middle-class success. But I wonder if also what I consider modest success -- owning your home, being debt-free, having enough savings to pay for some college for kids, being able to weather natural or health catastrophes, having savings to pass onto another generation -- are within reach for the majority of Americans. If not, then maybe the comfort of the negligible chance of winning the lottery is better than the obvious feeling of frustrating of falling farther and farther behind each month.

Evan Prodromou at 2013-08-07T19:58:28Z, aether likes this.

I guess I feel specifically strongly about the misleading nature of a lottery because it is explicitly state-sponsored false hope. Yes, hope is better than no hope; but I think that this is the wrong way to provide hope through parting someone from their cash. I feel the same way about the lottery as I do about faith healing or homeopathy.

Stephen Sekula at 2013-08-07T21:07:18Z

Even with some stats background, there's nothing wrong with donating a dollar to the schools (California's justification for lotteries) once in a while. Where I find it troublesome is when that's the only way people have to try and move forward, so they spend more than 1-2 dollars a week. I once saw an elderly man spend his entire monthly check on lottery tickets. The neighbors had to take him in when the landlord evicted him. at 2013-08-08T12:08:18Z

I think you hit on my point. I'm not talking about people that do it for fun despite the ridiculous odds, or even people stuck in poverty or underserved communities who occasionally engage in buying a lottery ticket a a form of casual entertainment. I'm talking about the specific mis-use of people's understanding of math and statistics (and the prevalence of "The Gambler's Fallacy" in our society - the notion of a "hot streak" or a "run of good/bad luck" that, in fact, cannot occur in random sequences of events). State agencies luring people to spend money on an incredible long-shot, knowing that they are primarily receiving money from people desperate for hope, is, to me, unsavory at best. Better to alter taxes (I would gladly pay a higher property tax rate to support my schools, because I know I can afford it) than prey on ignorance and desperation.

It frustrates me more that public schools are forced by their budget squeezes to cut music, math, and science programs, thus creating even more fertile lands of ignorance, and perpetuating the cycle. That, deep down, really kills me.

Stephen Sekula at 2013-08-08T18:04:42Z