A study: success is mostly luck

Finally someone did a formal study and verified that success has no basis in person’s quality but relates purely to luck.

The largely dominant meritocratic paradigm of highly competitive Western cultures is rooted on the belief that success is due mainly, if not exclusively, to personal qualities such as talent, intelligence, skills, efforts or risk taking. Sometimes, we are willing to admit that a certain degree of luck could also play a role in achieving significant material success. But, as a matter of fact, it is rather common to underestimate the importance of external forces in individual successful stories. It is very well known that intelligence or talent exhibit a Gaussian distribution among the population, whereas the distribution of wealth – considered a proxy of success – follows typically a power law (Pareto law). Such a discrepancy between a Normal distribution of inputs, with a typical scale, and the scale invariant distribution of outputs, suggests that some hidden ingredient is at work behind the scenes. In this paper, with the help of a very simple agent-based model, we suggest that such an ingredient is just randomness. In particular, we show that, if it is true that some degree of talent is necessary to be successful in life, almost never the most talented people reach the highest peaks of success, being overtaken by mediocre but sensibly luckier individuals. As to our knowledge, this counterintuitive result – although implicitly suggested between the lines in a vast literature – is quantified here for the first time. It sheds new light on the effectiveness of assessing merit on the basis of the reached level of success and underlines the risks of distributing excessive honors or resources to people who, at the end of the day, could have been simply luckier than others.

The publication is available locally or in arxiv.

Picture source: https://dilbert.com/strip/2015-10-12… --> continue reading →

Why Do Nigerian Scammers Say They are From Nigeria?

A very interesting paper was published at Microsoft Research by Cormac Herley. It looks at the question “Why Do Nigerian Scammers Say They are From Nigeria?” and comes out with an unavoidable conclusion that that is by design.

Far-fetched tales ofWest African riches
strike most as comical. Our analysis suggests that is an
advantage to the attacker, not a disadvantage. Since
his attack has a low density of victims the Nigerian
scammer has an over-riding need to reduce false positives.
By sending an email that repels all but the most
gullible the scammer gets the most promising marks to
self-select, and tilts the true to false positive ratio in his

An interesting consequence of which is that even if only few people take the trouble to answer those scam letters but never actually go through with the money transfer, the Nigerian Scam would become prohibitively expensive to run.… -->

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