Feb 17·edited Feb 17Liked by Eneasz Brodski

I have a friend or two who believe in manifesting. Once or twice, I have gotten them gifts, and they have said something like, "I manifested this." And every time they have said this, I have looked them in the eye and said, "No, you jerk--I did," if only to remind them that my thoughtfulness and care had perhaps a liiiiiiiittle something to do with it.

So I take your point about giving credit where credit is due, and attributing outcomes to "luck" can definitely be a way of failing to acknowledge hard work, intelligence, care, thoughtfulness, productive social and cultural values, effective social institutions, etc.

On the other hand, I'm extremely skeptical of your views of causality here, and I think that "luck" is not incompatible with a more realistic view of causality. Take feedback loops like technological lock-in, for example. In the 80's, VHS tapes beat betamax tapes because they had only a slight edge on the market (including, importantly, an edge in video-rental stores) which quickly compounded into an extremely large edge. Perhaps this slight initial edge had to do with the business savvy of VHS-makers, or maybe they just happened to know the right people whereas the makers of betamax did not; in either case, these VHS-makers (and assumedly their ancestors) benefitted significantly from this slight advantage due to lock-in, a phenomena over which they had no control and, I imagine, did not consciously anticipate in their decision-making.

Examples of technological lock-in abound--and I assume that first-past-the-post effects operate very similarly--and I imagine that at least some of the people (and their ancestors) who reap the rewards of these phenomena owe these rewards more to luck than to intellectual or motivational virtue.

Again, I'm not against giving credit where credit is due, but I think we should be very skeptical of falling prey to the fundamental attribution bias when thinking about where to give credit for any of the supposed "luck" we currently enjoy (whether individually or socially). Even more so, I think that "luck" is a useful concept if we use it to refer to the rewards that we and our ancestors enjoy for reasons that are at least partially beyond them exercising their intellectual, motivational, and/or socio-cultural virtues.

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I know you address this in your caveat, but I think a lot of what people mean when they talk about luck is luck compared to people for a very similar reference class. Why did this podcast / webfic / noodle shop blow up and become popular compared to dozens of others on which people work equally as hard.

AI reading of this article:


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" We’d rather say “I was lucky to be born to loving, attentive parents” than to say “my life is good because my parents sacrificed and made some good choices and I venerate them for this.” "

You're so right, and I never noticed this. Lucky I read this blog post!

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I think some of this (at least in the USA) is not wanting to say: it wasn't luck. My ancestors stole this land fair and square! What do you mean I might owe less lucky people something?

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