The Lottery of Safety

When lottery jackpots are high, upwards of 600 million tickets are sold in a single day. The Atlantic reported that Americans spent $70 billion, or $300 for every adult, in 2014 alone. Of the top 20 counties in North Carolina with poverty levels above 20 percent, more than $200 per adult is spent on the lottery. And Rhode Island leads the U.S. in sales per capita, with nearly $800 in tickets sold per person.

Yet the odds of winning remain low. So low in fact, that even when Powerball fever grips the nation, the chances of any winner being selected (from the 600 million or so tickets sold that day) is still only around 13 percent.

Why do we buy lottery tickets?

Because we have the amazing ability to magnify perceived chance based on hope. We pray, wish, dream, and negotiate with higher powers, that the one chance in a billion falls on us.

Then we put that same lottery ticket in our pocket, drive our car without a seatbelt, leave eye protection on our forehead, climb without a fall arrest system, and tell ourselves, “Getting hurt at work will never happen to me.”

Except we’re wrong. Something always happens. Every day our lives are filled with coincidences and circumstances which defy the odds. Low-chance encounters that change our lives forever.

What are you betting on?


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