Friday, October 15, 2010

another thought

Okay, over a decade ago, states started to get the idea that they could raise a bit of cash by operating a lotto. As time has gone on, those lottery prizes have grown in size until they are worth sometimes over a hundred million dollars.
They also have odds of winning somewhere around 1:16,000,000 to as high as 1:170,000,000, which is pretty awful, really. By comparison*, the odds of dying in a one hour plane trip is about 1:1,000,000.
Now, not long after this trend began (and a very popular, money-making trend it has been for states), 9-11 happened, and suddenly everyone was worried about dying in a terrorist attack. We continue, nine years later, to be worried. Why? What are the odds of dying in a terrorist attack?
Even if terrorists were able to pull off one attack per year on the scale of the 9/11 atrocity, that would mean your one-year risk would be one in 100,000 and your lifetime risk would be about one in 1300. (300,000,000 ÷ 3,000 = 100,000 ÷ 78 years = 1282) In other words, your risk of dying in a plausible terrorist attack is much lower than your risk of dying in a car accident [one-year odds of dying in a car accident is about one out of 6500, lifetime probability about one in 83] , by walking across the street [a one-year risk of one in 48,500 and a lifetime risk of one in 625], by drowning or in a fire [both a one-year risk of one in 88,000 and a one in 1100 lifetime risk], by falling or by being murdered [both a one-year risk of one in 16,500 and a lifetime risk of one in 210].
So anyway, my point here is to wonder if the Lotto is part of the reason that Americans are so terrified of dying in the same kind of attack that hasnt been repeated in nine years is the same reason that leads people to spend a dollar or two or ten or even a hundred, week after week, with the idea that they will become millionaires.
Just wonderin'.

* The way the odds are stated dont really match up very well, but if you played the lotto once a week you could be expected to win once in a 250,000 years.

No comments: