robertogreco + misfortune   2

The Role of Luck in Life Success Is Far Greater Than We Realized - Scientific American Blog Network
"What does it take to succeed? What are the secrets of the most successful people? Judging by the popularity of magazines such as Success, Forbes, Inc., and Entrepreneur, there is no shortage of interest in these questions. There is a deep underlying assumption, however, that we can learn from them because it's their personal characteristics--such as talent, skill, mental toughness, hard work, tenacity, optimism, growth mindset, and emotional intelligence-- that got them where they are today. This assumption doesn't only underlie success magazines, but also how we distribute resources in society, from work opportunities to fame to government grants to public policy decisions. We tend to give out resources to those who have a past history of success, and tend to ignore those who have been unsuccessful, assuming that the most successful are also the most competent.

But is this assumption correct? I have spent my entire career studying the psychological characteristics that predict achievement and creativity. While I have found that a certain number of traits-- including passion, perseverance, imagination, intellectual curiosity, and openness to experience-- do significantly explain differences in success, I am often intrigued by just how much of the variance is often left unexplained.

In recent years, a number of studies and books--including those by risk analyst Nassim Taleb, investment strategist Michael Mauboussin, and economist Richard Frank-- have suggested that luck and opportunity may play a far greater role than we ever realized, across a number of fields, including financial trading, business, sports, art, music, literature, and science. Their argument is not that luck is everything; of course talent matters. Instead, the data suggests that we miss out on a really importance piece of the success picture if we only focus on personal characteristics in attempting to understand the determinants of success.

Consider some recent findings:

• About half of the differences in income across people worldwide is explained by their country of residence and by the income distribution within that country,
• Scientific impact is randomly distributed, with high productivity alone having a limited effect on the likelihood of high-impact work in a scientific career,
The chance of becoming a CEO is influenced by your name or month of birth,
• The number of CEOs born in June and July is much smaller than the number of CEOs born in other months,
• Those with last names earlier in the alphabet are more likely to receive tenure at top departments,
• The display of middle initials increases positive evaluations of people's intellectual capacities and achievements,
• People with easy to pronounce names are judged more positively than those with difficult-to-pronounce names,
• Females with masculine sounding names are more successful in legal careers.

The importance of the hidden dimension of luck raises an intriguing question: Are the most successful people mostly just the luckiest people in our society? If this were even a little bit true, then this would have some significant implications for how we distribute limited resources, and for the potential for the rich and successful to actually benefit society (versus benefiting themselves by getting even more rich and successful).

In an attempt to shed light on this heavy issue, the Italian physicists Alessandro Pluchino and Andrea Raspisarda teamed up with the Italian economist Alessio Biondo to make the first ever attempt to quantify the role of luck and talent in successful careers. In their prior work, they warned against a "naive meritocracy", in which people actually fail to give honors and rewards to the most competent people because of their underestimation of the role of randomness among the determinants of success. To formally capture this phenomenon, they proposed a "toy mathematical model" that simulated the evolution of careers of a collective population over a worklife of 40 years (from age 20-60).

The Italian researchers stuck a large number of hypothetical individuals ("agents") with different degrees of "talent" into a square world and let their lives unfold over the course of their entire worklife. They defined talent as whatever set of personal characteristics allow a person to exploit lucky opportunities (I've argued elsewhere that this is a reasonable definition of talent). Talent can include traits such as intelligence, skill, motivation, determination, creative thinking, emotional intelligence, etc. The key is that more talented people are going to be more likely to get the most 'bang for their buck' out of a given opportunity (see here for support of this assumption).

All agents began the simulation with the same level of success (10 "units"). Every 6 months, individuals were exposed to a certain number of lucky events (in green) and a certain amount of unlucky events (in red). Whenever a person encountered an unlucky event, their success was reduced in half, and whenever a person encountered a lucky event, their success doubled proportional to their talent (to reflect the real-world interaction between talent and opportunity).

What did they find? Well, first they replicated the well known "Pareto Principle", which predicts that a small number of people will end up achieving the success of most of the population (Richard Koch refers to it as the "80/20 principle"). In the final outcome of the 40-year simulation, while talent was normally distributed, success was not. The 20 most successful individuals held 44% of the total amount of success, while almost half of the population remained under 10 units of success (which was the initial starting condition). This is consistent with real-world data, although there is some suggestion that in the real world, wealth success is even more unevenly distributed, with just eight men owning the same wealth as the poorest half of the world.

[graphs]

Although such an unequal distribution may seem unfair, it might be justifiable if it turned out that the most successful people were indeed the most talented/competent. So what did the simulation find? On the one hand, talent wasn't irrelevant to success. In general, those with greater talent had a higher probability of increasing their success by exploiting the possibilities offered by luck. Also, the most successful agents were mostly at least average in talent. So talent mattered.

However, talent was definitely not sufficient because the most talented individuals were rarely the most successful. In general, mediocre-but-lucky people were much more successful than more-talented-but-unlucky individuals. The most successful agents tended to be those who were only slightly above average in talent but with a lot of luck in their lives.

Consider the evolution of success for the most successful person and the least successful person in one of their simulations:

[graphs]

As you can see, the highly successful person in green had a series of very lucky events in their life, whereas the least successful person in red (who was even more talented than the other person) had an unbearable number of unlucky events in their life. As the authors note, "even a great talent becomes useless against the fury of misfortune."

Talent loss is obviously unfortunate, to both the individual and to society. So what can be done so that those most capable of capitalizing on their opportunities are given the opportunities they most need to thrive? Let's turn to that next."



"This last finding is intriguing because it is consistent with other research suggesting that in complex social and economic contexts where chance is likely to play a role, strategies that incorporate randomness can perform better than strategies based on the "naively meritocratic" approach."



"Conclusion

The results of this elucidating simulation, which dovetail with a growing number of studies based on real-world data, strongly suggest that luck and opportunity play an underappreciated role in determining the final level of individual success. As the researchers point out, since rewards and resources are usually given to those who are already highly rewarded, this often causes a lack of opportunities for those who are most talented (i.e., have the greatest potential to actually benefit from the resources), and it doesn't take into account the important role of luck, which can emerge spontaneously throughout the creative process. The researchers argue that the following factors are all important in giving people more chances of success: a stimulating environment rich in opportunities, a good education, intensive training, and an efficient strategy for the distribution of funds and resources. They argue that at the macro-level of analysis, any policy that can influence these factors will result in greater collective progress and innovation for society (not to mention immense self-actualization of any particular individual)."
luck  meritocracy  2018  success  research  scottbarrykaufman  inequality  diversity  talent  serendipity  chance  society  misfortune  gender  race 
march 2018 by robertogreco
'In the 2000s, there will be only answers' -- Fusion
"Some writers we know write about the future: William Gibson, Margaret Atwood, Octavia Butler, Philip K. Dick, Ursula Le Guin. We expect them to find insights about how humans might live. But what about someone like Marguerite Duras, an influential post-war French novelist and filmmaker? She had important things to say about the 20th century. What might she say about the future?

Photonics researcher Antoine Wojdyla stumbled across an interview with Duras from September 1985 in the French magazine Les Inrocks. Struck by Duras’ perspective on technology and deception, he translated the article out of the goodness of his heart and sent it to me. It’s strange and remarkable, an uncanny interpretation of our present.

I read her statement as a kind of pre-answer to Google and wearables and the quantified self. When former Google CEO Eric Schmidt told the Wall Street Journal in 2010, “I actually think most people don’t want Google to answer their questions. They want Google to tell them what they should be doing next.” That’s what Duras means when she says, “In the 2000s, there will only be answers.”

In any case, here’s Duras as translated by Wojdyla:
In the 2000s, there will be only answers. The demand will be such that there will only be answers. All texts will be answers, in fact. I believe that man will be literally drowned in information, in constant information. About his body, his corporeal future, his health, his family life, his salary, his leisure.

It’s not far from a nightmare. There will be nobody reading anymore.

They will see television. We will have screens everywhere, in the kitchen, in the restrooms, in the office, in the streets.

Where will we be? When we watch television, where are we? We’re not alone.

We will no longer travel, it will no longer be necessary to travel. When you can travel around the world in eight days or a fortnight, why would you?

In traveling, there is the time of the travel. Traveling is not seeing things in a rapid succession, it’s seeing and living in the same instant. Living from the travel, that will no longer be possible.

Everything will be clogged, everything will have been already invested.

The seas will remain, nevertheless, and the oceans.

And reading. People will rediscover that. A man, one day, will read. And everything will start again. We’ll encounter a time where everything will be free. Meaning that answers, at that time, will be granted less consideration. It will start like this, with indiscipline, a risk taken by a human against himself. The day where he will be left alone again with his misfortunes, and his happiness, only that those will depend on himself.

Maybe those who will get over this misstep will be the heroes of the future.

It’s very likely, let’s hope there will be some left…
"
alexismadrigal  2015  answers  questions  askingquestions  questionasking  margueriteduras  predictions  passivity  reading  howweread  online  internet  web  thewaywelive  indiscipline  happiness  misfortune  travel  traveling  tv  television  media  screens  information  infooverload 
january 2015 by robertogreco

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