Sunday, March 06, 2005

Why does fate exist?

If something goes wrong or if something does not turn out as expected, a typical Indian tendency is to ascribe those situations to ‘fate’. While ‘destiny’ is sometimes used as a counterpart to ‘fate’; in Kannada only one word describes the cause for the good and bad things, ‘vidhi’, which could be translated as ‘fate’.

People generally overlook numerous instances of things going right or otherwise but base their opinions on few incidents. However, these are the situations that matter them a lot. Though destiny does not matter much since the superstitions it develops do not necessarily harm the person or the society. But fate can have negative impact on person’s psyche, confidence and motivation. The superstitions that the person develops to get over the bad luck can be detrimental to him or the society. A question of interest would be ‘why does fate strike a person?’

A surest answer would be person expects something in a situation with too many ‘random experiments’. Let’s consider a situation.

Everyday, you take an auto to your office. Let us say you catch an auto at 10:30 in the morning. Here, the incidence we are expecting is auto’s availability at 10:30. Since autos do not have any obligation to arrive in front your gate at 10:30, its availability is a random experiment. I will call this as an ‘external random variable’. Now we have to determine the probability of the availability of the auto. It is possible that out of 10 days you have caught the auto on 7 days. A probability of 0.7. Since majority of the times you have found an auto, a common misconception of its availability will develop in your mind. Now let us consider that ‘emergency situation’. You have to find an auto at sharp 10:30 so that you can reach somewhere in time.

A common person, even with a misconception of 0.7 probability as 100% availability, wouldn’t have fallen for a concept like ‘fate’ if atleast 70% of his ‘emergency situations’ have occurred as expected. A rarity. What is wrong? Simple. He has overlooked one more random variable, emergency situation itself. I will call this as an ‘internal random variable’. A probability 0.7 has to be divided between normal situation and emergency situation. Let’s consider you have emergency situation once in five days. A probability of 0.2. So, what is the chance of you catching an auto in an emergency situation? I will call it as probability of destiny(Pdestiny) and is equal to 0.7 * 0.2 = 0.14. In other words, you have only 14% chances of catching an auto in an emergency situation. This is the case in most of the human expectations. Fate will always triumph.

The only way to get rid of this spell of fate is to make sure you have as few ‘external random variables’, that you can’t control, as possible in your life. Also increase the probability of your ‘internal random variables’. An easy example would be trying to do something. One or two attempts will result in very low probability. So number of attempts must be many. Of course, you can always accept the fact that your probability of success is very limited.

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