Why you should buy a lottery ticket

I bought a Powerball ticket for the $500MM lottery last Saturday, and was actually interviewed by a local TV crew when I bought my one ticket, and said something to the effect that $2 buys me several minutes of daydreams about buying ridiculous things (that $100k lake submarine in SkyMall magazine). Later I discovered a better reason for my purchase. In the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, every quantum event happens. It\’s basically the only way many can reconcile the EPR paradox or Schrodinger\’s cat being alive and dead. All possible alternative histories and futures are real, each representing an actual \”world\” or \”universe\”. Therefore, after buying that ticket, I actually won the $500MM jackpot in many of those universes. Unfortunately, in this particular universe I did not win the lottery, but, I can take comfort that many of \’me\’ did win, and my utility function somewhere among those universes is insanely high. For some reason, I\’m not enjoying that as much as I should based on the math.

13 thoughts on “Why you should buy a lottery ticket”

  1. No need to buy the ticket, because in lots of other universes he’s buying it. Of course, in one universe, he’s winning it without buying it, which is a double whammy.

  2. @Shinsei, I suppose if you have so much money that you’ve no idea what to do with it spending $100,000 to find out there is nothing worth looking at underwater in your average lake has similar marginal utility to spending $100,000 to find out that $100,000 champagne tastes rather like $10,000 champagne.

  3. For some reason, I’m not enjoying that as much as I should based on the math.

    Perhaps because you understand that in rather more universes, you have been struck by lightning in the past week.

  4. It’s only every *possible* universe. There will be some outcomes which are impossible. It may well be there are no universes in which the balls and the number on your ticket match, in the same way as there are probably no universes where I become Prime Minister, or become a world champion ping pong player.

  5. IanB – given *every* possible universe, you must win at least once. It’s impossible to buy a ticket and not win under those circs.

    Obviously, this assumes you buy a ticket – my no ticket/win thing was a joke, though I suppose a computer malfunction is probably happening somewhere.

  6. @Ian are you sure about that? I was under the impression that Everett’s Many Worlds Theory held that every possible action and choice had to have taken place.

    I used, in a former job, take comfort from the fact that it meant that somewhere, as I sat in a meeting with a complete a***hole of a client (that I didn’t want bit lacked the ability to get rid of), somewhere there was a universe where I had just hauled him out of his seat and battered his lights out; even if in this one I was sitting there listening to his petulant bullshit.

  7. So there are infinite numbers of universes but slightly less possible winning lottery winners.
    Can someone with more maths than me answer:
    Infinity divided by infinity = one
    or
    Infinity divided by infinity = infinity
    Maths is hard, as Barbie says.

  8. For once, IanB is right, even if he is quoting from a Terry Pratchett novel. “All possible universes” does not mean “All CONCEIVABLE universes”.

  9. That’s right. I learned everything I know about physics and maths from Terry Pratchett.

    Jesus fucking H Christ.

  10. One can win at lotto without buying a ticket. You can get given tickets. I’ve never bought one and I’ve won $25 so far.

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