Thursday, June 10, 2010

Shit Happens

  1. Phrase used as a simple existential observation that life is full of imperfections.
  2. To show bad things happen to people for no particular reason.

Humans have a rocky relationship with randomness. On the one hand, we declare that "shit happens"--an acknowledgment that bad things sometimes occur for no particular reason. But more often than not, our minds resist randomness, searching for meaning even where none exists. One of the basic human characteristics is to try to search for meaning, We use whatever means are available to us to explain randomly occurring events. That's why we often interpret chance happenings as signs from God, or credit our "lucky socks" for a successful night of poker. Or we say a player is on a hot streak if he scores a dozen baskets in a row, when in fact a run of success (or a run of failure) may be due simply to chance. But everything happens for a reason. I simply believe in that.

Why are we so bad at detecting randomness?