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I view it more or less that way:

log(success) = S * skill + P * privilege + L * luck

Were the coefficients S, P & L depend on the measure of success.

American dream-like meritocracy says it is almost all S.

For honest "equality of opportunities" (sadly, often it's a euphemism for the above), S, P and L (and want to change it to S and L).

People for "the equality of outcome" believe it is mostly P (and L).

You won't become a top scientist by will low skill. Yet, if raised in an environment with no value on education, and not spotted by anyone - they may not become a scientist at all. Or someone with high S and P, but focusing on a problem that turned out to spend their lives on problems that turned out to be dead ends?

Do you think that say Zuckerberg (given the same skill and drive) would have achieved the same success if he spent their forming years among less privileged environment, e.g. Poland (less mentoring, no-one wanting to invest millions, not that tempting to join a students' network of a not-Ivy league university?)

For executive positions (unlike technical ones), I guess it is much more P & L than most meritocrats would like, vide

"Regardless of intellect, positions at the level director and above seem to be assigned very unpredictably (luck/politics/privilege?)" from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19406432

Also, as a side note and subjective): everything is luck. Your innate skills are a lottery, your environment (for nurturing and networking). This "luck" in the equation is more like "residual luck" (from "I worked on problem X and it turned out to be a game changer/time waste" or "They looked at that moment for a person of my profile").




I'm not really sure how else to see it. It's pretty straightforward to show that the simplest possible model is some kind of probability density function with inputs of skill and privilege and a wide distribution and a very long tail due to cumulative effects. Not having various skills will obviously preclude certain outcomes (probably can't buy 86-DOS and produce PC-DOS if you couldn't understand the technology), not having certain privileges will preclude others (can't sell PC-DOS if you aren't in a position to meet with anyone to try) and some outcomes beget further possibilities (unlikely to have grown Microsoft and produced Windows if you hadn't have sold PC-DOS). Luck being the realization of such a probabilistic model into finite outcomes.

Anyone attempting to reduce it further than that is selling (or got sold) some very dangerous and irresponsible ideas.


You forgot to include W (hard work) into the equation.

This is important, if you consider that the goal of a meritocracy could be that it drives more output.

> American dream-like meritocracy says it is almost all S.

And W. Yes, people want us to believe that hard work brings us success, for obvious reasons.




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