They were giving away lottery tickets in the lobby of my office building as a promotion for a new game. Some of my coworkers went down and got one, some of them did not, some of them did not know about the promotion. I planned on picking a ticket up at lunch but forgot. But I had a conversation with one of them and then I had a similar conversation with my father and something clicked in my head.
Nobody plays the lottery to win. Everybody who plays hopes they will win, but anybody with a basic understanding of probability and statistics knows that they are not going to win. Yet they will still buy a ticket, they will still check the numbers everyday, they will still fill in the little bubbles week after week.
Anybody who plays the lottery or has ever played the lottery did not pay for a ticket, they were paying for the fantasy of winning. Everybody, myself included, wants to see instant improvement in their life, it is a most basic human trait and weakness. Instant gratification is what makes games so prevalent in our society and why so many gym memberships are forgotten about in march. We love to imagine ourselves as better versions of ourselves but we hate the idea of putting in the work to get there.
And we do not like each other fantasizing about such scenarios.
“How dare you imagine yourself as better off than me for no reason,” we think.
But it’s different if you win the lottery, in that case you just got lucky, the victory was not earned and it may not have even been deserved, but it was fair. There is nothing more fair than simple chance.
We are paying to dream of a better life, or more accurately, we are paying to dream about taking a shortcut to the better life.