Humans preying upon helpless humans is horrible enough when it is a war time situation, but in peacetime it becomes even more ugly. This disgusting behavior happens all the time and is even condoned and sometimes supported by society at large; but even if it is legal, it bothers me all the same.

WIRED magazine issue 19.02 came today and on page 106-111+ there is a feature article about lotteries, and how they are rigged. “EASY MONEY” by Jonah Lehrer is about a statistical mathematician working in Canada, Mohan Srivastava,  who discovered a flaw in the usual lottery systems. He gives the exact technique which would permit a purchaser of tickets to find the winning numbers. It is fairly simple to do once you know the method, but no doubt those types of tickets have been pulled off of the quickie-market shelves this week. His technique is based on the fact that the lottery numbers were not random numbers, as they were billed to be, but in fact they had built in biases which gave more frequent near misses than would be statistically valid. In order to get this effect the numbers visible on the cards had to be systematically biased. Once Srivastava realized that this bias existed he was able to create a mathematical way to spot the cards with the bias and thus to get a much higher percent of good hits than intended by the lottery commission and enough for him to make lots of money. He said he didn’t do that because the method was incredibly tedious, but if he had lots of time or an access to lots of tickets and a scanning device he could have reaped huge benefits.

I have occasionally asked my friends if it is okay to steal from people who are stealing from the public. My friends don’t think so, and neither does the lottery commission. They certainly don’t think so, in fact they have made it criminal offence to cheat the lottery commission. They have a such a pitifully small payback on the money the public inserts into the system they are themselves reaping unwarranted profits. The whole reason states support lotteries is to get more money into the state coffers which means they are taking it from the players. It is a regressive tax because it is taking from the most unfortunate, the most helpless people in the society. They trick the players into believing they are closer to winning than they really are by giving them more frequent near misses than are statistically probable. Srivastava spotted that bias and played against the commission.

People play the lottery because they realize that if their lives continue along their present path they will never be able to get the things they feel they need. By playing the lottery they are given a moment of hope that their luck might change, that today is their lucky day, and tomorrow they will be rich, and all their problems will be over. Of the millions of people with this dream a few will get lucky, but the return on investment is pitifully small. The various governments running lotteries claim they put the lottery losings back into worthwhile public necessities like the educational system. If this is true it is the best benefit the players and their children are getting from the lottery. If it were true. Unfortunately most of the money simply evaporates. No one seems to know where it goes.

In this article a case is made for certain people winning much more frequently than the odds would suggest. It appears that some people have an edge and are not hesitant to use it for personal gain. But they might contend they are not taking from anyone in particular, only from the general public, but the victims are the most pitiful people in society. These thieves are not stealing from the rich and giving to the poor, like Robbing Hood of ancient times; they are stealing from the poorest of the poor and keeping it for themselves.

Stealing from the poor is an easy way to riches because they cooperate so willingly.

Advertisements