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A lot of “idiotic” things have reasonable explanations (2011) (theatlantic.com)
378 points by luu 4 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 414 comments

A similar story that I love regarding the infamous Van Halen brown M&M contract rider:

“Van Halen was the first band to take huge productions into tertiary, third-level markets. We’d pull up with nine eighteen-wheeler trucks, full of gear, where the standard was three trucks, max. And there were many, many technical errors — whether it was the girders couldn’t support the weight, or the flooring would sink in, or the doors weren’t big enough to move the gear through.

The contract rider read like a version of the Chinese Yellow Pages because there was so much equipment, and so many human beings to make it function. So just as a little test, in the technical aspect of the rider, it would say “Article 148: There will be fifteen amperage voltage sockets at twenty-foot spaces, evenly, providing nineteen amperes …” This kind of thing. And article number 126, in the middle of nowhere, was: “There will be no brown M&M’s in the backstage area, upon pain of forfeiture of the show, with full compensation.”

So, when I would walk backstage, if I saw a brown M&M in that bowl … well, line-check the entire production. Guaranteed you’re going to arrive at a technical error. They didn’t read the contract. Guaranteed you’d run into a problem. Sometimes it would threaten to just destroy the whole show. Something like, literally, life-threatening.”


Interesting. I wonder who thought to add this test into the contract. It's a simple but brilliant strategy.

I have seen the story many times. I think it is brilliant.

But this isn't like that at all. The Brown M&M is a clever hack that seems weird (and that gets posted here over and over and over...).

What's going on here is simultaneously much more mundane and much more interesting.

A given strategy at a corporate level is something like a 10 dimensional cube, with half of those dimensions within the company and half of those side outside. It begins as a concept floated by those in charge, it gets floated to people who float it to people who finally put out another version, say, a 5 dimensional cube. And final thing has requested qualities, with some things added simply as CYA, things that aren't good but the low level operative can't be criticized for.

Sometimes this process result in a dimension that a moderately intelligent person can look at and say "that's moronic, that would never work" and it doesn't.

The thing is, indeed, the critic doesn't see even the 5 released dimensions of the whatever-the-fuck that's being sold so they don't know the difficulties involved. Because the thingy is trying to barely satisfy each of these dimensions, not be great in any of them. Because these are all constraints,

Why push out a crappy version of Windows (say Vista), why produce yet another fail sequel in series X, etc. Sure, when such satisficing projects fail, the dumb stuff seems obvious but people forgot that so many projects succeed by just barely missing the bar of inadequate and so some are going to have to hit the bar too, in one of those dimensions.

> So, when I would walk backstage, if I saw a brown M&M in that bowl … ...They didn’t read the contract.

I don't know that that necessarily follows. It could be that they read it, said "fuck that", and did everything else to spec. Good story tho.

> It could be that they read it, said "fuck that", and did ...

Exactly. You wonder what else they said "fuck that" to because they don't care or think it's not necessary.

An even better case to catch.

Yeah. I'm imagining the guy who says "fuck that" to picking the brown m&ms out as the same kind of person who goes "10A circuits should be fine. They build safety margins into those" or "those rafters should be fine to hold 2 tons of equipment. They're really stout 2x6's." You know, the kind of person who just assumes they know better and that what is planned doesn't matter. And if you let them do that they will totally kill you with their negligence.

> "fuck that" to picking the brown m&ms out as the same kind of person who goes "10A circuits should be fine. They build safety margins into those"

You've never worked with an electrician. This is not how these things work.

I love that this story gives people the warm fuzzies; enough to downvote. =D

As I said in another reply: The post even said they'd go ahead and check stuff. Does anyone think they WOULDN'T have checked that show equipment for one of the biggest rock bands of the day if they found no brown M&M's? Really?

But it's trivially easy to do, and the venue knows that not doing it is a violation of contract. A violation of contract could cost them the whole show, so there's no reason not to do it.

It's a heuristic. A single, cheap, effective one IMHO, but no heuristic is 100% accurate.

There is nothing to indicate any effectiveness whatsoever; how many shows were cancelled as a result? The post even said they'd go ahead and check stuff. Does anyone think they WOULDN'T have checked that show equipment for one of the biggest rock bands of the day if they found no brown M&M's? Really?

It's a canary in the coal mine. Presumably they still checked other critical things but based on the canary could determine how closely they needed to check everything.

This article puts it better than I ever could. I had a similar reaction when I read extremely critical press coverage of some VCs in Europe investing in YPlan, which eventually sold for a nominal amount to Time Out London.

The synopsis of all the coverage was: "How could they have spent all that money? And how could the investors have been so STUPID?"

My friend Fred Destin wrote a great essay on this[1], and I'll do the horrid thing of quoting my own note to him in reply:

> It’s analogous to a soccer fan questioning the manager’s decision to put player X on the field instead of Y. The manager sees both players on the training ground for hours every day, knows their mood, talks to them, understands how they respond to different situations, and consults his coaches. Then the matchgoing fan sees 90 minutes of output on Saturday and makes a judgement with <1% of the data a manager has.

> Past a certain point in fundraising and traction, it’s impossible to believe that a startup failing is anything more interesting than a combination of poorer-than-expected execution, and bets not paying off.

[1] https://medium.com/tech-london/hey-yplan-how-do-you-dare-go-...

Scale this up to anything and you will want to be governed by a benevolent dictator. Not even senators themselves read the full bills they vote on, and I don't blame them with it being hundreds of pages of reading that could easily be parted out to aides, but the electorate certainly doesn't have this advantage. Maybe 1% of voters are truly informed.

My IT director doesn't know every facet of what is in our environment, and generally is not up to date as to what changes are happening on the day to day. And he doesn't need to be.

The point of high-level workers is so they can focus on high-level priorities. They have staff -- legal aids, system admins, business analysts, whatever -- whose job it is to digest that stuff and put it into simple briefings for leadership to evaluate in the context of other issues.

> I don't blame them with it being hundreds of pages of reading that could easily be parted out to aides, but the electorate certainly doesn't have this advantage

The electorate isn't expected to have this advantage, and is not expected to read the bills. The whole reason for representative democracy is so that the common voter does not have to parse this stuff -- that's explicitly the point. I find someone who reflects my views and I put them in office, and trust that they'll be able to digest what's happening and vote accordingly. The common man isn't expected to understand tariffs, international banking, military theory, computer engineering, social justice issues, and food scarcity.

A lot to unpack here.

> The common man isn't expected to understand tariffs, international banking, military theory, computer engineering, social justice issues, and food scarcity.

What better use is there of the common man's time than understanding societal issues like justice and scarcity? Are you describing how the world is or claiming how it should be? If you do not understand justice, scarcity, etc. how can you claim to elect someone who reflects your views--ignoring that a lot of politics is lesser evil voting?

An uneducated populace voting is a worst-case scenario for a representative democracy.

> An uneducated populace voting is a worst-case scenario for a representative democracy.

I'd probably say that the worst-case scenario is a populace that doesn't care whether their representative is educated on the issues.

There are many things that I consider myself uneducated in, but as long as my representative has similar values, is not corrupt, is competent and finds and listens to experts in the relevant fields, then I don't necessarily consider that to be a problem.

We should be electing people we trust to care about the detail of stuff that doesn't interest normal humans, not people we'd like to have a beer with.

> > The common man isn't expected to understand tariffs, international banking, military theory, computer engineering, social justice issues, and food scarcity.

> What better use is there of the common man's time than understanding societal issues like justice and scarcity?

Both of those can be true.

Hence my question of whether the OP is prescriptive or descriptive.

It's perfectly fine not to be informed (or interested!) in most topics. It only becomes dangerous when you're uninformed but trust your own opinion more than the experts. Popular examples are climate change, or the COVID-19 response.

SO we are to be ruled by experts?

Show me the model produced by he experts that has been right? Show me the science behind the idea of quarantining the entire population in order to slow the spread of Covid-19. There is science behind quarantining sick people - but not healthy people. Show me the science behind the social distancing - 6 foot rule? I mean really - where IS the science to those things? These experts are self-proclaimed. I am more than willing to listen to a bridge builder tell me why I need to use a certain kind of steel as apposed to another - but many of these experts that we have been listening to lately are anything but experts.

I’m confused. Are you arguing for being ruled by non-experts? Sounds like you think we already are, what’s the problem?

The opposite of “expert” isn’t “uses magical common sense to arrive at the right decision”, it’s “crapshoot”.

> Are you arguing for being ruled by non-experts?

No, he is making the valid point that in many areas that are highly relevant to public policy, there are no experts. Those who call themselves "experts" actually aren't. Nobody has enough understanding of the problem domain to make accurate predictions.

In such a case, the only viable solution is for nobody to "rule".

Decisions have to be made—including doing nothing. Someone is always "ruling". Diffusing responsibility does not change that fact (though it can have other significant benefits).

I'm sympathetic to your POV, by the way, because uncritically listening to experts has literally killed millions of people in the past century. But the key word is "uncritically". Pushback is healthy, discussion is super-healthy; my position, though, is that in any argument, experts should get more weight unless the people arguing back have strong, on-the-ground evidence.

> Decisions have to be made

In general, I disagree. Most of the time decisions do not have to be made--more precisely, decisions by "leaders" who get to dictate what everyone must or must not do so not have to be made, and should not be made. Our political structure makes it seem like they do, but that's a bug in our political structure, not an actual necessity.

> in any argument, experts should get more weight

If "experts" is defined as "people who have a demonstrated track record of making accurate predictions in the past", then yes, I agree.

However, by that criterion, as I said, in most domains that are of importance for public policy, there are no experts. Your statement, while correct in itself with that definition of "expert", does not help at all in those domains.

Any other definition of "expert" does not justify your statement.

> Our political structure makes it seem like they do, but that's a bug in our political structure, not an actual necessity.

Again, "no decision" is a decision, especially in the presence of alternatives.

> If "experts" is defined as "people who have a demonstrated track record of making accurate predictions in the past", then yes, I agree.

How good must their track record be before they warrant more weight? 100%? 75%? 5% better than an average person's? I think each level warrants different levels of deference. If a perfect oracle speaks, you do what they say. If someone who spent a long time studying a very complex problem has an opinion, you listen carefully, and ask follow-up questions, but you don't pretend that the Google University™ twenty minute crash course on the topic is as informative.

I recognize it's not simple (and it's fraught). But saying "there are no experts" when people dedicate their lives to studying a lot of these phenomena is only true if you demand 100% accuracy.

> "no decision" is a decision

"No decision" by leaders in a situation where there is not sufficient justification for ordering everyone to do or not do something, is not the same as "no decision" period. Individuals are still making decisions.

> How good must their track record be before they warrant more weight?

Good enough that their predicted benefits from a policy are reliable enough to justify the costs and risks of that policy.

> If someone who spent a long time studying a very complex problem has an opinion, you listen carefully

Not if they have no track record of accurate predictions. "Studying for a long time" is not a good proxy for that. Lots of people study complex topics for a long time without ever making any accurate predictions.

> saying "there are no experts" when people dedicate their lives to studying a lot of these phenomena is only true if you demand 100% accuracy

You're missing the point. It's not that the accuracy has to be 100%. It's that you're looking at the wrong thing. It doesn't matter how long someone has spent studying a topic. All that matters is their predictive track record. Looking at anything else just distracts you from what matters.

>> "no decision" is a decision

> "No decision" by leaders in a situation where there is not sufficient justification for ordering everyone to do or not do something, is not the same as "no decision" period. Individuals are still making decisions.

Except that it did not play out well because individuals were deceived by so called (wrong) experts who claimed that it is nothing worse than flu.

Based on this individuals took decisions that were opposite to the optimal result and traveled to the areas most inflicted by the virus and carried it to their countries en masse.

Countries that understood the character of the virus and implemented early restrictions (that was questions on days) did fare better that countries that waited to implement restrictions.

> Individuals are still making decisions.

Or, the market is making decisions for them. And those are often obvious to predict.

>> Decisions have to be made > In general, I disagree.

You can check the data. Lets take for example 3 similar Mediterranean countries - Spain, Italy and Greece.

First 2 waited with restrictions till >1000 confirmed infected. 3rd executed restrictions when there was only 65 confirmed cases.

Result. First 2 tens of thousands dead, 3rd <200.

There is clear patterns - earlier countries did implement testing facilities and applied restrictions - faster they got the spread under control with lower causalities.

"The purpose of studying economics is not to acquire a set of ready-made answers to economic questions, but to learn how to avoid being deceived by economists." - Joan Robinson, 1955

She's not wrong. If my adulthood has taught me anything it's that supposed "experts" are oftentimes anything but. And they're certainly not trustworthy just because of their title or credentialing.

Hi! I am not sure about your background--which matters for explanation. I cannot speak to 6 feet in particular, but the basic idea starts with the assumption that the primary vector is large respiratory droplets. If that's the case, imagine you are a droplet. You are acted upon by gravity and by air/temperature. As you move along, you will fall. At some distance, most droplets above a certain size will have settled. That's the basic reasoning. You can argue about the particular cutoff, but the bigger question is how relevant aerosols are. But, the problem is that in the early spread of a virus, the growth in infections is very fast. Someone has to guess. If you wait for perfect knowledge, a lot of people will die because you are taking a linear approach to an exponentiatial problem.

The Imperial College paper that kicked off the whole thing has plenty of details on various quarantining scenarios, including full population quarantine and at risk population quarantine, or any combination thereof. Did you read it? Do you not agree with the simulations or what are your objections?

From browsing that site, she seems to be a professional science contrarian - worth keeping in mind when reading that article.

> she seems to be a professional science contrarian

She's a scientist. To the extent she's a "contrarian", it's due to her personal experience in seeing how science actually works as compared to how it's supposed to work.

> However, using Ferguson20’s stated assumptions, I calculate a 30% higher death toll of approximately 660,000 people (Column A7), implying an IFR of 1.23%.

Now what?

> SO we are to be ruled by experts?

There's a reason people in power have advisors, and it isn't just to rubber-stamp things.

Back in the old days, FDR had a board of experts to advise him on things. He listened to them. Governments also have a professional civil service, full of people who don't rule but who are in contact with those who do, and who know enough to give good advice.

So the question isn't whether we have a technocracy or a democratic system totally unconnected to reality. It's how well-advised our democratically elected leaders are.

The word quarantine originated from quarantining all people entering an area a certain number of days. Not just visibly sick people.

> a certain number of days.

to be precise, literally 40 days ("quaranta" means 40 in Italian).

I get the opposite message: You're saying (and I agree) that even a small group of people chosen to be dedicated to making informed decisions is not able to keep up with the demands it puts on them, specifically they need to make decisions based on very partial information. How is a benevolent dictator supposed to do better? That doesn't make sense.

At least in theory the wisdom of crowds can do better. In practice, it's often hard to argue.

Political theory: The study of how to maximize the knowledge of decision-makers while minimizing their conflict of interest.

Regarding sports. Unfortunately, let's not discount the politics and human nature involved in fielding a team. Some players get to play because of their salary, some players get to play because of their relationship with the coach, some players get to play because they're trade bait, some coaches really are wrong, etc.


Coaches are human too. They are just as fallible as the rest of us. They may work with better information than the fan, but this doesn't mean that they should never be questioned. And good coaches allow themselves to change opinions if criticism makes sense.

For business... for every Netflix, there's a WeWork that everyone can see is insane and they're not wrong.

The other thing is that player evaluation is an extremely imprecise science. For example, even with all the information modern professional sports scouts get about their prospects, many new players still wash out and are busts. The science just isn't precise enough to give definitive answers (and it's possible that science can't give answers in some of these cases). So there are a large number of judgement calls to be made, even with all the information available.

A fan might be correct when they say, "Coach should have played X instead of Y.", but the trick is knowing that in advance. And knowing hundreds of other things in advance too. Maybe coach got that one decision wrong, but hundreds of others right. The fan is unlikely to get that many correct on a percentage basis.

I suppose that's part of the fun of fantasy sports, proving that if you had the chance you could do a better job deciding which players will perform the best each week

Regarding sports, most people fail to understand that most professional sport association (like football "clubs") are actually entertainment companies.

The sport is just the bait for the spectators.

A coach might choose a certain player over another just because the people acclaim him/her.

Also, don't forget that scandals about rigged games are quite regular nowadays.

The american model is certainly entertainment focused, but the european football model at least has youth leagues and a lot more local outreach than a given american pro team in their host city.

But they still make decisions on who to play (partially) based on who puts butts in seats.

> some players get to play because they’re trade bait

I mean, insofar as we’re measuring teams by winning games, rather than measuring teams by how profitable they are, we’re probably not measuring their inclusive fitness. Winning doesn’t help you if nobody pays attention; and, vice versa, making money helps you (in the long term) even if you don’t win.

I disagree with the soccer fan analogy. Often in soccer the team manager publicly reveals key perspectives and strategies that always guide their decisions. They also reveal patterns of player selection that link to their perspectives and strategies, often over many years across multiple teams.

If Jose Mourinho comes to coach your team, you know right away the player recruitment and selection will be rooted in a very calculated defensive approach, conservative possession-oriented play style.

He has done this at several clubs where it was universally understood to be a bad strategic idea given the talents of the specific players he would be inheriting, even from his first day on the job.

Even casual fans could see that, despite the coach spending hours and hours observing player training, talking to players and studying game film, he was biased to impose his preferred strategy onto the team no matter what, even if all the evidence said it was unjustified.

Considering the Premier League further, this effect just gets worse the less skilled the manager is. Many mid or bottom table teams have blunderously bad managers that combine both being low skilled with being hyper committed to a fixed strategy regardless of the characteristics of their players. Once they have dug their heels in on the strategy, they can’t go back on it or appear to buckle under fan pressure, or else they seem like a pushover / non-expert with no special knowledge worth millions of dollars, and it becomes entirely political (making the strategic weakness even more apparent).

I would say it’s a case where “the wisdom of crowds” really is wisdom and the consensus criticisms about player selection are usually very valid and well-supported and the connection to the coach’s strategic weaknesses is obvious.

> If Jose Mourinho comes to coach your team, you know right away

1. You're about to spend a whole heaping wad of cash on overpriced players that other people are trying to offload. 2. He'll be gone in under 3 seasons with a hefty golden parachute. 3. The toxic after-effects will contaminate your club for years.

Signed, a very bitter United fan.

I'd say both of those things are frequently true, and it's hard to know which is right when. "Fans" in aggregate also have the benefit of hindsight and confirmation bias. For every smart fan who was right, there were many who were wrong but don't keep bringing it up years later. Coaches OTOH have to live with the decisions made in the moment, right or wrong.

People call people idiots instead of trying to understand how they made a mistake because of fundamental attribution error. We all do it.

People are predominantly successful because of luck. Opportunity, connections, upbringing, all luck. Yes, you still need to make the right decision at the right time.

There is a pernicious tendency to make a fallacious argument for intelligence because of success; that is, people become convinced of intelligence because of success. The most obvious example today is the president of the USA. He is convinced of his own intelligence because clearly he is one of the most successful people in the country. I don't think many reasonable people would argue for his genius. On the other end of the spectrum, it seems obvious to me that in the billions of poor people on this planet there is an unknown genius unable to escape his or her circumstances.

We make mistakes. We don't try to understand the mistakes of others as we call them idiots. We are not necessarily capable of succeeding even if we are smarter than those that have.

Thank you! Even if your comment is slightly off-topic I always get upset when people just immediately assume genius because of success. Some people almost literally didn't have to do anything but to open their wallet to receive dollars in, at the right time, while being at the right place.

This very often gets overlooked. The world's economy is an MMORPG game and networking / contacts matter much more than many of us who swear in meritocracy would like to believe.

Another form of this that seems to have taken over online discussions in the last few years is “<person> did <thing> because they are evil” (or rich).

As an example, I’ve noticed that privacy-related discussion on HN is often thought-terminated by comments that reduce down to “<company> is doing <perceived privacy-destroying thing> because they want to destroy your privacy”. On reddit, a common form of this is “<politician> is doing <something implausibly comic book villain-y> because they are evil”.

When the motive isn’t clear, I often enter these discussions trying to learn more about why - but more often than not, I just leave feeling the same way as the author here.

They picked an example that really aged well. Look at netflix today - it's clear that a little bit of humility would have been warranted in 2011 when talking about the company.

Communication is a key to a high-level position in a hierarchy, and therefore, to the wealth. But very high IQ people have difficulty connecting with the majority of other people, so they lag behind.

A interesting take on this phenomenon from the point of view of the insider and outsider - https://commoncog.com/blog/good-synthesis-adapting-to-uncert...

I feel like what isn't really properly understood in these situations is the statistical chances that are involved here. 10 people put $50 on the roulette table, and then we celebrate the guy who hit their number. That genius who hit their number still had a negative expected value when placing that bet. Colette Martin would've been right to criticize Reed Hastings if he were making that bet with Netflix's money. But we don't read articles about the CEOs who make bad bets and lose them, and we don't really know if the CEOs who won made good bets or bad bets.

It's possible the richest CEOs are actually the worst at picking bets, because they're the ones who picked bets that were the least likely to pay off, and therefore got the biggest pay out when they won. If 50 people were making the same bet as Reed Hastings, then Netflix would've found it far harder to succeed, since they would've been competing for talent, content and customers with 50 other companies. The reason Netflix exploded in growth is partly because they were the only ones serving that market. Maybe that was a genius stroke of insight, or maybe he was one of a thousand people making bad bets, and he's the one that it paid off for.

> we don't read articles about the CEOs who make bad bets and lose them

Yes we do, all the time: Theranos, WeWork, WebVan, Myspace, Friendster, BlackBerry, Enron, Worldcom, etc, etc, etc.

Sure, we don't hear about companies that never get anywhere because they never did anything interesting to start with, because that's unremarkable.

But we hear a lot about the companies that attracted a lot of success or hype early but then "bet" wrong. (In fact, these stories arguably get a disproportionate amount of coverage, due to schadenfreude from journalists and their audience.)

The roulette spin analogy is not apt, because building a successful company is not a single bet; it's many many bets, every year/month/day over many years, which moves it well out of the realm of random chance and mostly into the realm of skill.

And before someone says it: nobody argues good luck is not a factor in a company's success. But that is mostly at the very beginning (e.g., Steve Jobs meeting Woz; Bill Gates' mother knowing the chairman of IBM) and luck alone is not nearly enough.

Skilled leadership over the long term makes all the difference between success and wasted opportunity.

It's interesting that plenty of people were flinging poo at Reed Hastings when he was making the transition between mailing DVDs and streaming, and pretty much nobody in the media dared fling poo at the obvious "violating laws of physics" shennanegins happening at Theranos before Tyler Shultz took them to the ground.

None of the other examples are really comparable to Netflix either; they were all companies which eventually failed, but which business reporters didn't particularly dislike until after they failed. Netflix was nearly universally reviled for making "dumb" decisions which turned out to be correct, and Mcardle deserves credit for noticing that Hastings was probably a better CEO than most business reporters.

> Bill Gates' mother knowing the chairman of IBM

I find this story annoying. Imagine that Mary Gates did not know John Opel. Who would have IBM done business with instead?

What makes a betting person good or bad? It's hard to score and compare process and intention. The most natural way of determinig the quality of the betting person is by their results.

It's not a very informative way of looking at the world, but it's the most straightforward.

Maybe he was just standing in the right place at the right time, but he was also prepared with the right tools to do what he did. Doing good business is more than a spin on a roulette wheel.

Investors diversify, so we need CEOs of individual firms to take more risk than we want for our portfolios as a whole. To be worth their wages, a CEO of a publicly-traded company should be making risky slightly-positive expectation value bets; were the firm too risk-averse, it'd be just as inefficient as if it were to keep too much cash on hand.

It is possible that a rich CEO has a negative EV bet picking strategy. Unlike casino games we cannot exactly determine this expected value, and have to estimate it from past observations. CEOs who generated positive past rewards, will most likely have a positive EV betting strategy.

Sounds like the VC model, or the found-a-startup model. I came here to say basically this. Well put! Survivorship bias is a huge problem in the way of explaining success.

> "If everyone else is such an idiot, how come I'm not rich?"

Unfortunately the answer to that question is, I spend way too much time on hacker news.

While I agree with the main thrust of the article (Chesterton's fence, etc.), the author seems to take as a given the fact that Netflix is sliding back into becoming as expensive as cable, because the content providers are setting the prices.

But Netflix's value is not from competing against cable on price, it's competing against piracy on convenience.

Content providers will never again see the same profits, because the de-facto price of content is zero. It's too easy to pirate, and morally grey enough that people are willing to do it.

Netflix got so big because it captured the market of people who were willing to pay for the convenience. If this gets too high they will just go back to pirating.

I’m not sure if that’s a given. People going back to piracy sort of assumes people will happily walk back to watching sketchy streams on laptop screens. I think the bar will pretty high for people who wish to watch on Apple Devices, Rokus or Smart TVs.

There has been enough time for people to get locked into walled gardens.

Piracy in 2020 is more polished than first party streaming platforms.

Not going to link anything here, but certain PLEX/freeNAS plugins can basically let you make your own Netflix, complete with slick UI, but all the content.

However most people don't have the requisite knowledge to set all of this up, so I would agree with the other commenter that the majority are probably still going to just go to sketchy streaming sites.

I think content acquisition still has several hurdles as well as the pipelines of your favorite metadata scraper isn't exactly trivial to setup.

The actual software, once installed is really nice (I have a Plex Server + Infuse on an Apple TV), but in my case I still pay for content (via usenet).

There is software that has already done this for you, no need to configure anything, just open the app, search the title, and start watching.

Piracy in 2010 was more polished than 2020's first party streaming platforms.

We already saw measurable piracy spike in response to the sudden influx of streaming services splitting desirable content among several platforms. If anything, it's more of a danger as the generations paying for media are more comfortable than ever with the concept and willing to return to it if there are too many obstacles to conveniently finding what you want to watch.

What's ironic to me is (IMO) Netflix is probably the shrewdest big company in existence now. Hastings has dominated not one but two markets, the second obviously larger and more insurmountable than the first. Almost Every single decision they make (including and especially ones that make customers unhappy, like their shitty browsing experience) seems so calculated and thoughtful it's just amazing.

Even I thought Disney plus might be the beginning of the end for Netflix, that it finally met a Goliath it couldn't best, but now even that isnt obvious anymore.

Meh, Netflix is one of many for me. Would be happy if it didn't exist, to watch other stuff on other streaming and I don't think they necessarily have the best content.

Netflix try's to get you hooked on their originals, but the problem with that is once you binged a series you want something else - they cant keep feeding you the crack that is that current series because they take months to produce, so you switch to something else - and at that point it could be something else on Netflix, or just as easily something else somewhere else. I don't think Netflix is really that sticky.

But maybe I am proving the point of the article and I'm missing the strategy.

Exactly. We all keep talking about leaving Netflix but it looks like we aren't. How long has Netflix now been without major movies? Clearly whatever they're doing works - from my ground-level experience, everyone has at least a couple of shows that they like watching in Netflix, and everyone shares accounts as well so in the end it's a few dollars a month for always having a backup service with a lot of "meh" titles at the least.

Perhaps that's what the company is gunning for? Perhaps they noticed that the crowd that sees Adam Sandler movies is the main market and they don't necessarily need to pander to "sophisticated" audience to be a successful company? Who knows. It just looks mindful, minimally, where they're trying to chart out a path that they CAN do, given all their constraints (mainly every major IP now being protected by their parent for their own streaming service).

The fact that you're on it is 90% of the strategy.

> Even I thought Disney plus might be the beginning of the end for Netflix, that it finally met a Goliath it couldn't best, but now even that isnt obvious anymore.

I think Disney painted themselves in a corner buying every studio and putting it under the Disney banner.

Disney have long stood for family values programming which is never edgy or pushes the envelope.

That was the reason behind Touchstone and the purchase of Miramax (and prob a few other Disney owned subsidiaries I've forgotten) to push out adult centric content and keep it separate from the Disney = family-friendly marquee.

The Disney brand today is this monolithic umbrella brand and with all their streaming content going under the Disney+ channel it's going to be hard for people to cognitiviely disassociate the brand from the content.

For example who's going to think I fancy watching Pulp Fiction tonight, let me see if it's on Disney+....

They know this and have a way around it. Disney holds a controlling majority of Hulu. That's why they push the Disney+/Hulu+/ESPN+ combo so hard and put all the edgier stuff on Hulu. You can watch Pulp Fiction on Hulu with the Starz add-on. Hulu is their big aggregation play.

Just to be pedantic: Disney owns Hulu entirely, now, they bought out Comcast (and got Fox's share when they bought Fox). https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/news/2019/05/14/disney-b...

Disney plus is different, great if you have young kids but slim pickings for adults. There isn't a huge overlap with Netflix.

It fills a gap in Netflix. Netflix is great at annoying kids' stuff and great at heavy 16+ stuff, but not so good at stuff that's fun for the whole family[0]. Pixar has tons of that.

[0] Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events is a rare exception that I strongly recommend to anyone who is or has ever been a kid.

It's an intelligence to realize that in order to make a lot of money, you have to be ruthless at business. In order to be ruthless like that, you need to neglect being a good and reasonable person, even to those closest to you. Such is the cost of money. Money doesn't buy real friends or happiness, and so the smartest among us are deliberate in not accumulating wealth needlessly. Whilst everyone else assumes their stupidity for not accumulating wealth, in truth, it’s a Dunning-Kruger situation.

I've encountered a few individuals fairly well off and where they think of everyone as idiots. These individuals came from an upbringing of lower class and they eventually had the right opportunities happen for getting ahold of some money. Example from something comparable to bitcoin happening. Nothing in anyway of were these persons were contributing to society in how they gathered a good portion of wealth.

I've also encountered people from wealthy families and these individuals typically don't comment on what they think of others less fortunate in society. They also stay out of politics or anything where people get disgruntled about. I'm unsure if it was how they were raised and or they know the game of life is rigged. In any case, I respect this group the most which is sort of odd because everything was handed to them.

Anyway, the first group of individuals probably would have been better persons if they were just born into money as well. They have a fallacy in their head of they earned their success and wouldn't have had it any other way in life. In reality they just had a worse path to eventually becoming financially independent and sadly these individuals place their ego around wealth because of it.

I don't necessarily believe in the traditional idea of luck. I think everything is predetermined at birth. But wow does it help to be born into a wealthy family with somewhat decent genetics. Quality of life will be so much better. It's so noticeable that I sometimes wonder how others don't see it as well.

I've been learning this slowly over the last few years. I was a typical science guy. Then a close friend dragged me to the gym (which was just foreat heads right?). And it really helped with my depression and now it's a major activity for me. Same for Networking and Sales skills and Watching Sports and Foreign languages...

Embarrassed me would like to publically apologies for assuming everyone else is an idiot and should do what I do. Sorry guys!

>> I mean, Reed Hastings did manage to build this rather large and successful business that killed off one of the most successful retail operations of its day. It's possible that he just sort of did this by accident. But is this really the most likely explanation?

It's possible, yes. And if we consider that there were possibly a few thousand people at that time trying to make that business work, then "by accident" does start to look like the best explanation.

Was/is he smarter than everyone else trying to do the same thing? Probably not.

Was/is he better connected, better funded, more able to run a business, than the others? Possibly, but probably not.

Was/is he luckier than everyone else? Almost by definition, if we define "luck" as "something that helps people succeed".

It's a very nebulous definition. But there's definitely a Venn diagram overlap of "by accident" and "by being very lucky". Even without getting to FedEx levels of "lucky", there is definite "luck" involved in making decisions based on incomplete information that will turn out to have outsize effects on the business later. This is a normal activity for startup founders, and I'll bet serious money that more than a few of them were made in Netflix' early years.

We always underestimate survivor bias when considering successful startup stories. And without studying the other people who were trying to build the same business at the same time, we have no idea why some of them succeeded and others failed. Without this information, it's impossible to say whether Netflix succeeded "by accident" or by design.

I had a manager early in my career who used to say "everyone else's job is harder than you think." That really stuck with me.

A non-native speaker here - what does "debacletacular" mean? The word only has a few hits on Google. I understand it's a neologism of sorts, a conflation, but what's the meaning?

I'm guessing "a spectacular debacle" - AKA "epic fail"?

It's an adjective, based on 'spectacular'. It is to 'debacle' as 'spectacular' is to 'spectacle'. 'Spectacular' meaing "relating to, or having the character of, a spectacle" (Wiktionary). So it would mean something like 'relating to, or having the character of, a debacle' - with hints of 'spectacular debacle'.

it's a port-manteau of spectacular and debacle i.e. a spectacular debacle

Port-manteau, another one :) Thanks!

Oh, this is easy.

The usual response to such a question is - "you're just an anti-intellectual! Being rich doesn't mean you're smart - any fool can do it! Real non-fools write their opinions down and other fools follow them."


I've known some utterly immoral people become very, very wealthy - I might've even helped them along the way. The reason I'm not rich and they are, is that they decided they didn't want to help me along my way.

Being rich isn't an indicator of intelligence, nor is it an indicator of hard work or decent ethics. It does, usually, mean that someone wanted to give you money for some reason - and even a fool or an intellectual can do such a thing for love. Or, not.

> It does, usually, mean that someone wanted to give you money for some reason

Isn't that the definition of participation in the economy? You created goods, or provided services, or arranged for goods to be created or services provided, and in exchange people give you money?

Cases where people are given money without in some way earning it are far in the minority.

> You created goods, or provided services, or arranged for goods to be created or services provided,

or drank with someone on a regular basis, or married one of their relatives,

It's almost like building social connections and establishing trust with other people is important to later being trusted in other contexts!

So do not attribute to stupidity that which is adequately explained by you not understanding the whole picture.

I have for a long time now extended Hanson's razor with "... and never attribute to stupidity that which is adequately explained by ignorance."

The beauty of it is that it doesn't need to say who is the ignorant one!

...but how else will we produce our Daily political comedy?

Because you're an idiot too. Also me. We're all just muppets, with blind spots, distorted perspectives and emotions that override reason. Some idiots are just lucky in the right ways at the right times.

Hey, at least it's consistent.

I kept thinking this when the 'cybertruck' was unveiled. Suddenly everyone around me was explaining in detail why this truck was going to be a complete fiasco and a danger to everyone else on the road. I'll happily acknowledge that Musk is off his rocker, but can people really think that he doesn't know how to make a car?

( I'll admit a soft spot for the thing after someone pointed out it looks like what happens when you let back end engineers design the front end )

HN's predictions are solidly in "less space than a nomad" territory. I think the predictive value is nil. I think it might be slightly negative, i.e. if you trade on the naive opposite of the aggregate HN opinion, you might make money simply out of HN's anti-incumbency predilection combined with the Lindy effect.

The classic Dropbox comments and the glee at FB hitting some low stock price, $19?

I will fully admit that Musk knows how to make a car. He’s a car person and had a history of owning and enjoying sporty luxury cars before Tesla. But he’s not a truck person.

He didn't own any rockets either.

I don't know if the cybertruck is a good or bad idea. I don't know if it's going to succeed or fail. I don't know how anyone can possibly declare with confidence that they do know how the truck will do when released.

The whole problem with eg the BMW i-Series or most other electric cars is that they are designed in a silly way that says, “look at me, I’m a weird electric car, I’m not a normal car at all, I’m willing to look like a total dork in order to virtue-signal about being eco-friendly”. Teslas just look like sports cars—except the Cybertruck’s styling is 100% “dorky virtue signal about having a weird special truck”, and truck people are even less likely than car people to put up with that.

I looked to see what truck users on /r/Trucks had to say about it.[1][2] Here are some highlights, both positive and negative:

> It’s really damn cool aside from the roof coming to a point. I’m not sure I understand that design decision. However, onboard air compressor, 110v/220v accessory power, fast as shit, good ground clearance, integral bed cover and ramps, air ride suspension, and tough shell to boot... there is a lot to like here. I might just have to buy one in a couple years.

> Yeah because everyone wants a ‘bed’ you can’t load from the sides.

> I think [being able to load the truck bed from the sides] really only matters for people who use their trucks for actual work. This is obviously for people who want a truck for play and not work.

> ... he could have taken this seriously and actually made an impact. Now he’s proven the older anti EV crowd 100% correct that an electric truck isn’t a viable alternative.

> Clearly designed by someone who has literally never even used a truck once in their entire life.

> It's stupid tall bedsides ruin it for slide in campers too. If it wasn't for that the 3500lb payload and huge battery would make it great for a slide in.

> I'm surprised you all are not pouncing on the unibody. The other "truck" (Honda) that uses a unibody construction does not get much love.

> [People who like the Cybertruck design are] those who've never actually used a truck to haul items and/or trailers. Those who are in the ranching, mining, and other similar industries are laughing at this.

> Is the bed cover transparent? Seems like the rear window is only usable when the cover is retracted. I'm sorry. This is a truck for the Ridgeline crowd. No 8ft bed option. Only crew cab configuration. AWD, not 4WD. Can't tow a Gooseneck or 5th wheel, which you're gonna want when towing a 14K trailer. People will buy it. I won't.

> It’s a weird case of form over function. He was so focused on the blade runner vibe he forgot to make sure it was usable as a truck. Can’t even get to the front of the bed without opening the tailgate and getting inside.

> Trucks have a utilitarian purpose. There is a reason for their shapes. And if you look worldwide there are some differences, but also some commonalities. Like being able to access the frigging bed. That’s a massive failure here.

> There’s some things about truck design that are important to the function of being a truck. Like not having angled bed sides so you can fucking reach the first 1/2 of the bed without getting in it or being able to tow a 5th wheel.

> After looking at more pictures today I realized it doesn't even have a true 6.5' bed. It's much shorter than that, but angles in underneath the rear seats. Probably ok for hauling a few sheets of plywood, but putting in, say, furniture, would be harder.

> I set things in the bed over the bedside a lot. And climb in the sides. I’d have to awkwardly yeet shit over the side of that angled monstrosity

> This truck looks like an absolute nightmare to load and unload tbh. I actually even ditched my bed for a Bradford flatbed to make my truck easier to use. Rear/side visibility looks awful. Boasts a 14,000 towing capacity yet it looks like a nightmare to hook up to a trailer. I’d love to know how far this thing can tow 14,000lbs. Payload of “3,900lbs”. What does the truck itself weigh? Does Tesla understand GVWR or how to calculate payload or is it assuming it’s potential buyers do not? I guess I just don’t understand the whole concept and what exactly they’re going for. Seems like they’re trying to do too much. This has been the plague of these types of “crossovers” which is exactly what this is. El Camino, Ford Ranchero, Subaru Brat, Subaru Baja, Chevy Avalanche, Honda Ridgeline, the list goes on and on.

> Having a large locking cover would give me so much peace of mind when I'm parked with my tools in there. Having the thing build of stainless steel made me ask why hasn't trucks been main of stainless steel for years.

> The bed has some L-Tracks and T-Slots in it too for easy tie downs, which was something I learned from a video I saw that someone did a test drive in

> Literally the only good truck feature is the integrated full width ramp in the tailgate.

> And you can lower the suspension in the back to make it easier! I would have killed for that the last few times i was loading heavy equipment into the back of my truck by myself. I had to make due with backing up to a hill and using a shitty steel ramp that would fall if i so much as looked at it wrong.

> Let's be honest, most people in suburbia/cities with trucks are just drugstore cowboys anyway. This truck will meet the needs of most consumers

> Good luck towing a 5th wheel with that thing

> If you need a truck, Cybertruck's already disqualified itself. Little clearance, no room for mods, unibody, no side access to the truck bed, likely range issues (once you add a load), and that's just the stuff we know about now. I can only imagine buying this if you buy a truck just so you can feel like you're driving a truck but never plan on using the truck features beyond occasional off-roading.

[1] https://old.reddit.com/r/Trucks/comments/dzvqhx/tesla_truck/

[2] https://old.reddit.com/r/Trucks/comments/e061ru/style_contra...

I think that the market for the Cybertruck is the Burning Man/offroad desert campout guy. I'm sure Elon is/knows a lot of these guys, since the Mojave is just over the hills from LA. It's perfect for this application.

It has huge ground clearance, the paint doesn't get screwed up when you scrape it on some brush, the bed is big enough to hold dirtbikes, and they are easy to load/unload with the included ramp.

You can sleep in the bed and it's covered, but not like a normal bed cover that creates a coffin like compartment, or a camper top that doesn't let you load tall items.

Not having access from the sides is a lot less of an issue than it used to be. With a new full sized 4x4, only very tall people can reach much in the bed from the sides anyhow. If you're going to give that up, you might as well go big and provide huge enclosed cargo volume. The ramp makes it much easier to just walk into the bed while carrying heavy items rather than loading from the sides.

It seems people are commenting on the title of the article and not on what the article says : it's easy to think someone is stupid when you read about them making a bad decision in the news.

Classic examples are:

"Hitler was stupid to invade Russia". In fact he needed to conquer oil fields to keep the ability to wage war andhe Russian army was particularly weak at that point.

"Kodak was stupid not to sell digital camera". In fact Kodak did develop digital camera technology. They were behind one of the first commercial digital camera (The Apple QuickTake), they licensed their patent and were number one sellers of digital camera in the US at some point.

It's easy to fall into this trap when you only high level information. I think that when you get more detailed information this effect dissipates. You then realize that there are many factors and stakeholders.

(2011) is important context here.

Very. I read the article and was very confused for quite a while until I realized this.

Yes, maybe the title can include the date.

actually, it' timeless.

> Any fool can make money these days and most of them do. But what about people with talent and brains?



It's really easy to think you have the better answer when you don't even understand the problem. You're working in a weightless fantasy land while the actual people involved have to work with the messy, dirty, heavy reality.

Great ideas can still have poor execution. It seems to me that major the flaws in the Netflix execution of the Qwikster spinoff was the source of much of the criticism. Most people lump the idea and execution together.

This is why when investors replace founders the companies stop innovating. Obvious ideas don’t have any value. You need deep domain knowledge to see how things really are, and not how things seem to be.

Dismissing a successful person but seeming "dumb" person is a benefit to them. Now, they can continue succeeding with less scrutiny.

For a long time I thought many politicians were "dumb" based on their public comments, propelled only by their connections. Now, when I look up some politicians who's spouting objectively false / misleading statements and find they've graduated a top-tier university and have a JD I realize these are not intellectually stupid people. They're skilled in their field, have drive, and less empathy/morals than others.

Now, I watch these "dumb" people more closely.

Empathy / morals seem to be the key thing here.

I have be forced to leave a number of potentially very lucrative deals because I refused to scam little old ladies out of their life savings.

US politicians often act "dumb" because Americans mistrust intellectualism and "book smarts," but they trust plain-spoken cowboys who shoot from the hip and speak like common people.

Hillary Clinton attended Wellesley and Yale, and speaks like someone who did, and many Americans hate her. GWB attended Harvard and Yale, but he played up the stereotypical Texas country-boy stereotype and fumbled over his words, and got two terms. Donald Trump went to Wharton business school, but speaks (and shitposts) at the level of a common Reddit troll, and he was elected in large part because of that.

You'd think Americans would stop falling for it at some point.

> Hillary Clinton attended Wellesley and Yale, and speaks like someone who did,

Hillary Clinton put on a terrible fake Arkansas accent for the beginning of her political career, talked about baking pies, and quoted country-western songs in interviews. The reason she uses her natural accent in her later career is because she has positioned herself as a "wonk," and often against Republicans who were doing folksy.

i.e. she's looking for a different set of Americans to "fall for it." Trying to appeal to an audience who thinks that everybody else is a sucker and they're the shrewd one.

When she goes to black churches, she puts it on again. Instantly starts dropping her g's and praising the lord like she would never do in a white church.

Do you think graduating from a top university makes them smart? Do you think working at a top hospital makes you a great doctor? Etc. There is a distribution everywhere. At top universities it just might be not as wide as some other places.

You should watch closely the people you admire. Donald Trump is as successful politician as one can be. He is as rich as one can be. He has a degree from a top university. But he's a useless person and dumb as a rock. If you try to follow his way you will get nowhere. Good luck.

I still have and use their disc rental service. I go to dvd.com and it forwards to dvd.netflix.com where I only rent blu-rays. Maybe they would have had better luck with a different name.

Risk aversion and capital?

If the thesis of this article is that rich successful people can't be stupid then I disagree. Vehemently.

Yeah, you idiots all want to be rich! I'm really smart and don't want to be rich, problem solved.

Consider `life` been a nonlinear chaotic process, so causality from been smart alone cannot be established.

Communication; gifted people can struggle to explain what they’re doing to normies

In my experience, the ability to explain is a side effect of being gifted. A gifted person can simplify complex subjects and concentrate on the important points, they can find different metaphors that work, or fit their explanation to your knowledge, and are often self aware enough to understand their own thought process. The less gifted often struggle to teach.

However “that’s obvious” is also often said intuitively by very smart people, where they are correct but they can’t actually explain how they know they are correct.

Reconcile that with how power concentrates on charisma and relationships (Politics, Startups, Businessmen). Power is about getting other people to do things, which is about communication!

Most of us chose the profession/vocation we practice because that is the opportunity that presented itself at the time. Very few people set out to be "rich". What they really want is to be comfortable, and able to pursue contentment. An anecdote from when I was a young person. A friend was working very hard to become a plumber. At the time I thought who would want to be a plumber, it is a gross and dirty job with a limited future. One day I asked him out of curiosity what he thought a plumber's place was. His reply surprised me. He said "a plumber's job is to protect the health of the community." Now that I'm older and reflect back, I can see that being a plumber is a solid vocation, that is needed by most communities, where a person can live anywhere they choose. But they don't get "rich". They make a comfortable living and feel they are contributing to the well being of the community. Isn't that what most of us really want from life?

What do you call people like me who is an anti-materialist and believes the religious impulse that a vow of poverty will make it easier to achieve enlightenment -- but keeps falling ass backwards into money.

A good thing to keep in mind for avoiding pride.

Because at the low level, everyone is an idiot.

> A lot of “idiotic” things have reasonable explanations

It doesn’t, however - often make them less idiotic.

2011 is the context: a height of the start-up wave, ascendance of FB--presumably due to "genius". The implication being that if you are really smarter than others you must have the rewards to show it. Hopefully this would be received today as a tone-deaf denial of privilege. The great myth of meritocracy has been blown apart.

Do you really believe Zuckerberg is an idiot? He has successfully navigated industry shift to mobile. He decisively and swiftly purchased Instagram and WhatsApp, buying his way into two major upcoming trends. You may think he is jerk or evil but no way an idiot.

"idiotic" was stated by the original post, not my reply. My objection is to the formulation that massive financial success in tech is proof of genius-level intellect. Being relatively smart may be necessary, but it is certainly not sufficient. Connections, opportunity, timing, and greed are other prerequisites. On the other hand, moral concerns about the negative downstream effects of your goals--something that a supposed genius would have insight into--would be inhibitors. As to the purchases you mentioned, I would argue that the game is a lot easier when you already have hotels on Boardwalk. And I certainly don't attribute strong imperial instincts as a mark of genius.

Facebook's dominance was earned. Remember Myspace? They were huge when Facebook started. Now they're tiny by comparison. Google tried and failed several times at social networks. Zuckerberg figured out how to manipulate humans in quantity through subtle programmed social cues. That's an achievement on a par with that of Hiram Maxim.

Oh come on, MySpace was an absolute disaster from a speed and usability point of view. It was obvious anyone could have done better than MySpace.

At the time I was using mixi.jp which was "MySpace done right" and was hugely engaging. (It's quite possible that Mixi might have become Facebook had they not committed commercial suicide later with some very stupid decisions. The only social network I know that deliberately tried to limit their userbase.)

Wealth = Human Connections.

Luck. The answer is luck.

While I agree with the article, it is important to distinguish the macro from the micro point of view.

From the micro point of view, a talented individual has a greater a priori probability to reach a high level of success than a moderately gifted one.

On the other hand, from the macro point of view of the entire society, the probability to find moderately gifted individuals at the top levels of success is greater than that of finding there very talented ones, because moderately gifted people are much more numerous and, with the help of luck, have - globally - a statistical advantage to reach a great success, in spite of their lower individual a priori probability.

I think it's mostly just that intelligence is not terribly important for success. Tenacity, street smart, charisma, connections, passion are all more important than IQ.

Taleb wrote extensively on this. IQ only statistically relevant at the bottom end of the scale (barrier of entry) but meaningless for "success" otherwise.

Don’t forget good looks and a rich uncle to bail you out of a jam.

Exactly. People on here seem to forget that almost every single rich person that can be named had hereditary money.

Jeff Bezos now has more money than can be made if an American family earned 63k for 2 million years. He also had parents that gave him a so-called "three hundred thousand dollar investment" (more money than most people see in a lifetime even while working hard for their family, dedicating most of their life to work and barely managing to enjoy life), while ignoring or dodging every single tax he can get away with.

It's weird how most people are fine with that, because they seem to see themselves as temporarily embarrassed billionaires, or because they aren't able to understand the sheer amount of money.

> He also had parents that gave him a so-called "three hundred thousand dollar investment" (more money than most people see in a lifetime even while working hard for their family, dedicating most of their life to work and barely managing to enjoy life)

Jeff Bezos also had a teen mother, a biological father that abandoned him, and a Cuban immigrant father that came to the US alone at 16 with nothing and no ability to speak English.

After passing through a refugee camp, just six years later Mike Bezos was raising Jeff as his own and had successfully gone to college.

If - having survived all of that well enough to build a decent life for himself - Mike could afford to invest into his son's business, then it's a remarkable accomplishment that should be cheered, rather than attacked.

I don't know much about Jeff Bezos so I try to reserve my judgement about him. But I am confused - how does one come from a poor family and then receive a $300k loan from said family?

The poor family through hard work and saving became a moderately wealthy family over time.

Sure, I didn't mean to sound like I am stomping on the Dream. What I meant was, how specifically did this family that came from poverty accumulate $300k?

Quick research says that Mike Bezos worked as an engineer for Exxon after graduating college, and saving that money wisely can add up to $300k.

That does not change the calculus in my mind, because the situation goes beyond just money. How did the Sr. Bezos land such a well paying job with Exxon? An engineer position puts him in a privileged class. We have to look back further generations to see how his family was in such a position to raise a successful engineer?

Let alone that Sr. should have the knowledge and support he required to manage his money so well. I look at the Jr. Bezos having a privilege to have a father who he could turn to for advise, or who may have guided his development. Not saying he did, cuz I don't know the family, but it sounds like it was a real possibility. Who saves all that money, only to entrust it to his estranged son who he don't know or trust--as if he haven't had a hand in imparting the necessary temperament, sensibility, and wisdom for his son to be successful in some way in the economy? LOL.

How many people today are fortunate to have grown up in this time, in this is a period of unprecedented economic growth and social change, who have squandered their earnings, because they didn't have the support of knowledgeable and trustworthy parents or family?

Sounds to me like a chain of great decisions, luck or both.

I can give a counter example. I moved to an affluent town on the North Shore of Long Island, NY. I met a woman in my neighborhood who described to me her career at the local hospital, as a nurse, for over 20 years. She's African American, and landed this job in the late 70s early 80s by my calculation. She benefited by the social changes at the time that accepted African Americans as nurses in a largely white community. I also met her son, and he struggles with under-employment in his career. I had the impression she didn't understand why he was in that situation. She was proud of her success. I imagine it was difficult for her to reconcile her career in nursing, and her son's struggles. She had success, why not him? Unlucky, more like it.

Right now--that hospital is part of one of those large health care corporate systems. If she had this job today, its very possible she would not have seen her salary increase year after year, nor enjoyed a pension, nor stayed with the same organization for so long just being a nurse. There will always be new nurse graduates with more energy with just enough knowledge who are more manageable by corporate. That's the reality of hospitals and healthcare today, despite growth in this field.

Fortune goes to the right person who is in the right place at the right time. And if you frack up and fall out, someone else is ready to take your place, hey. Who in a great position can say they did it entirely alone? Meag Lottery winners. haha.

Fine with what, that his parents helped him start a business or that he's so enormously wealthy?

I hope people don't mind the former, but the latter is a bit problematic. When individuals can control that much wealth, democracy breaks down, they can control politics. It wouldn't hurt capitalist incentives at all if the richest of the rich were limited to earning say $100 m.

> I hope people don't mind [that his parents helped him start a business]

parents != parents

maybe i'm stating the obvious, but "if you want to get rich, come up with a good idea and work hard" is way easier when your parents can invest 300K in your startup and you have that safety net to fall back on. as in, that's a substantial factor into somebody's "self-madeness" that's often overlooked

(i know that's not what you said, but imo it's a common sentiment re: creating a successful business)

These two things are more important than most people are prepared to admit. Very few people ever do the "rags to riches" thing. The few that do are probably good looking. Some people are just born with the ability to be far more successful than others.

I agree, but luckily everyone is born with the ability to define what success means to them.

danaris 4 months ago [flagged]

And I'm sure that's a great comfort to the vast number of people who are born with every bit as much potential for greatness as <insert personal favourite genius, celebrity, or billionaire here>, but never have the opportunity to realize it due to crushing poverty.

They may never be able to achieve even modest financial security and live in constant dread that they'll lose one of their 2-3 jobs and be on the street, but hey, they can define success as meaning a family that loves them, so that makes absolutely everything OK! /s

No idea why this would be downvoted, this is absolutely true - there is not just one version of what a successful life looks like. Deciding how you define success is a principle part of forming yourself as a person.

While this sounds great, it's a bit like when people say you can "choose what to believe". You cannot, in fact, choose what to believe. You either believe something or you don't. Similarly, with feeling successful, you either do feel that or you don't. It's not really under your control.

But what you can do is realise that things aren't always under your control so not to worry about them. Instead just concentrate on things you do have and things you can do. You have the power to be useful to society so do that. You have the power to do good things so do it. How you feel doesn't really matter.

How dare you, sir, attack the *n dream!

In a sense, it's like skill in any domain. Being good at something isn't strongly correlated that strongly with being successful at it, at least if success is taken to mean fame and fortune.

In that sense, the most successful CEO isn't necessarily the smartest individual/CEO in the same way the most successful artist isn't necessarily the best one on a technical level.

Perhaps also there are more definitions of success? Some people find success in moderate income but good family happiness. Others find success in taking care of their community.

Intelligence is hugely important for any kind of outlier success. It's no coincidence that Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and Jim Simons are undeniably brilliant.

The claim that charisma, street smarts, or connections are more important than intelligence is absurd. There are so many fields in which those things just don't matter. If you're not charismatic don't pursue a career in a field that requires charisma. Simple.

It's easy to think that intelligence isn't a strong predictor for success because there are many intelligent people who don't accomplish much. But there are many more charismatic and well-connected people who don't accomplish much! But we don't culturally expect charismatic people to automatically become successful, like we do for smart kids. That's where the real difference is.

> If you're not charismatic don't pursue a career in a field that requires charisma. Simple.

I'm sorry, what field would that be?

I have yet to see a field where extraversion, persuasiveness, and regularly going out and having beers with the boss is less likely to get you promotion than being utterly brilliant, doing an amazing job at what you do, and maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

At least in America, charisma has a massively outsized influence on your success in anything but the very most menial of fields.

Those fields where weirdos make it to the top.

Sure they are smart, but you'll find smarter people at any theoretical physics department, if we're talking IQ. Also, I don't think we are talking about rich as in global top 100, what I at least meant more mundane financial success, like earning $1 m a year.

At that level, you definitely don't need to be a genius, I'd say if anything a genius is much less likely to make a million a year.

People who don't try to become rich probably won't. That much is clear. When people pursue theoretical physics they knowingly choose a career that cuts off almost all paths to wealth. The question "so, why aren't you rich?" doesn't apply to people who aren't even trying.

For success within theoretical physics you see, again, exactly how important raw intelligence is. Charisma and people skills are nice, but top researchers are disproportionately brilliant. This isn't nearly as true in those scientific fields where research results are unverifiable. We've seen this in the recent months with the embarrassing quality of epidemiological modeling.

Earning $1m a year doesn't require exceptionalism of any kind, but there is a huge gap between $1m a year and the global top 100. And intelligence becomes more dominant and other traits start to matter less as the stakes increase.

"For success within theoretical physics you see, again, exactly how important raw intelligence is. Charisma and people skills are nice, but top researchers are disproportionately brilliant. This isn't nearly as true in those scientific fields where research results are unverifiable. We've seen this in the recent months with the embarrassing quality of epidemiological modeling."

I actually believed physics has repeated run into the problem where large swaths of research is in fact unverifiable and exists purely on a theoretical basis until technology has caught up with the theory. Wasn't there a large discussion within the past 12 months or so about the many flaws of the field of physics, including the repeating of the same mistakes due to not wanting to stray too far from the existing literature? Doesn't this field also have large swaths of theories with plenty of mathematics behind both that are also mutually exclusive?

If I would think about a field with a long history of verified research, physics would most certainly not be up there. I'd say chemistry has physics beat there for example.

Additionally, epidemiological modeling has to deal with real data from sources whose trustworthiness are largely only somewhat known and somehow project this into the future. This is a garbage in, garbage out situation and I don't know if this should reflect on the field overall. It'd be like judging ML as a field based off of a problem case in which all training data has untrustworthy labels.

That’s my point. I am talking about wealthy people, not fantastically ultra rich.


Wee need to teach thiss type of logical reasoning about statistical information at the high school level. It needs to be instinctive, and our default instincts are completely wrong for the task.

Statistical information has become extremely salient. Covid-19 is the current example. Most information is statistical. The same is true in many work contexts, where companies generate statistical knowledge that people need to interpret.

Meanwhile, this logic toolset is typically much weaker than our other ones. Average numerical ability is actually quite good, comparatively. The average person would perform ok on classic logical reasoning (Socrates is a man...). Throw in some statistical information... bogus conclusions (or no conclusion) are more common.

It's doable. Nothing too hard here. It's on par with simple algebra. We just haven't adjusted education to the needs of the times.

You are over simplifying the world. You are doing a mental exercise and reducing everything to a single variable: Talent.

So if someone success without talent, you explain it with another monovariable: luck.

By the way, for me being talented in something is just another version of luck. So we can say that you believe in just one variable: Luck is everything.

The world is way more sophisticated and complicated than a single variable.

Because of my work I have met people that are today highly successful. For example I have met motorcycle's world champions when they were children, that now earn tens of millions of dollars.

The most interesting thing is that for every world champion I know, I have met way way more incredible talented children that never became world champions and don't earn much or work in other areas.

They are human beings that took and take different decisions in their lives.

Some of them were very hard workers(and did not success after all the work), some of them were lazy(and succeeded anyway).

Some of them loved going to parties, others prefered to play guitar or read. Some were very social, others had few friends. Some were impulsive, some were analytical. Some were perfectionistic, others only care about doing things as fast as possible. Some had impulsive sex, other preferred stable relationships. Some accepted others helping them and listened, others refuse to learn or advice from others.

At the end of the day, there are hundreds of variables out there. There are usually some patterns that emerge on successful people on each specific discipline.

For example, in motosport you find that most successful people are highly competitive. They are obsessed with winning. I played ping pong with one of the kids and won. He could not stand it and trained and trained until he could win me(a year or so later). This kid is rich and famous now.

By the way, Success is different for different people. For me success could be not having a boss, working in front of the beach everyday without stress,and able to support my family.

For other people, being successful means earning millions of dollars, even when this means living for work inside a concrete hive watching numbers all day on a computer screen, and not having children until you can pay for a house that you never have time to visit.

Not necessarily in sports, but in other domains success may also often be the outcome of a stochastic process, because there are so many factors involved. This is often overlooked and successful people don't like to hear it, but the fact that they are among the successful whereas others with similar prerequisites aren't can often be attributed to pure chance.

There is a lot of survivor bias in the assessment of success.

I believe that successful people tend to have a high base level of intelligence, often high social intelligence, are often very persistent, and rich parents and good looks also help a lot. But it's equally important to happen to be at right place at the right time and meeting the right people.

Steve Jobs and Bill Gates are good examples in my opinion, had they been born ten years later they might have ended up in only moderately successful software business, or selling printers and go out of business by the early 90s, or creating a failed video game console. They started their businesses at exactly the right time, met the right people, and made good decisions in some early, very dynamic and emerging markets.

The op is not reducing everything to talent, or even implying that talent is especially important. If you are thinking about this statistically (the OP is), than these examples don't matter. The implication is a distribution of outcomes, not definite outcomes.

The argument works regardless of the definition of success used.

When you boil it down, all those other factors are also luck.

> the probability to find moderately gifted individuals at the top levels of success is greater than that of finding there very talented ones, because moderately gifted people are much more numerous

That is exactly what Bayes' theorem predicts.

Many other conclusions , erroneously, seem more intuitively right, thou. Statistics is hard to master as our brains biases are strong forces.

All of these are good factors, but don't leave out ego. Many smart people would rather be "right" and preserve their ego than make money.

And that many smart people have better things to do with their time than making more money. I have everything I need and really want. I much rather play with my three year old son in the garden than being able to afford a new Tesla.

“For instance, on the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much—the wheel, New York, wars and so on—whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man—for precisely the same reasons.”

― Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

> This planet has - or rather had - a problem, which was this: most of the people living on it were unhappy for pretty much of the time. Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movement of small green pieces of paper, which was odd because on the whole it wasn't the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy.

A lot of money simply isn't useful for anything interesting or valuable. Surviving is great, some comfort is nice, but after a certain order of magnitude, it's not so much people having money, it's money having people. While large scale projects are also important and those need money and other resources to be pooled in some form, but they don't require any involved person to be filthy rich.

And maybe that if you are smart (or think you are, based on previous success) you might be more relaxed about not optimizing for maximum monetary gain at every step of the way since you think you will always have plenty of good options down the road since your smarts is not a random one-off occurrence but something you can tap into repeatedly.

Personal anecdote: I used to be very anxious about making the absolutely "best" choice at every fork in my life and would agonize and analyze every decision meticulously. A few years into my career, I have had enough positive experiences and successes under my belt that I feel much more relaxed about the choices I make because I think I'll always have the ability to correct or pivot if I make one wrong move right now.

See also: "If you're really so smart, why do you care so much about being rich?"

Because have lots of money gives you the economic power to survive adversity, pursue interests that are more fulfilling, do more good in the world, etc...

I think what TheOtherHobbes means is you can survive adversity and pursue fulfilling interests without rising to the level of 'rich' - unless your interest is something like having colleges name buildings after you!

Indeed, it would be a poor reflection on our society if you had to be in the top percentile for income to merely be economically secure.

Do more of your version of good ;)

Lots of rich well intentioned people doing harmful good. A tangent, I know.

Yeah the underlying causality between intelligence and wealth/success is always strange for me. Researchers, artists, philosophers... There are a lot of smart people actively choosing to pursue interests that are not valued by the market/don't bring shareholder value. Is this a cultural thing? It's a bit caricatural but where I live I find it's the opposite, "real" smart people should not pursue such lowly material and gross goals as money, being rich is kind of suspicious. But maybe there are nuances in the different kind of smartness that are talked that I miss.

TIL: Didn’t know I was stupid for having different goals than starting a family.

In non mockery voice: I think there is nothing wrong in being smart and perusing academic titles, wealth or recognition. Can’t I be happy travelling the world because I have so much passive income that I don’t care how much I spend? Can’t I be happy running megacorporation without a child?

If you calmly re-read the post you were replying to, you will see that they didn't question different goals than theirs, at all. They said "many smart people", not all, and they didn't say that those outside that subset are stupid.

An expression of one's own values doesn't have to imply a judgement of others, especially if they're about what makes one happy.

If that makes you happy then fine, but it's wrong to assume that it's the ultimate goal for everyone to be mega rich. Honestly it's a very common mistake for people to be totally sure that everyone in the world desires to be rich and famous

>>that everyone in the world desires to be rich and famous

Keep the fame, I just want the freedom that money buys. I was never famous; but I have been asked for autographs and been stared at by total strangers with hero worship in their eyes--it is bizarre, and it made me feel extremely uncomfortable. I can't imagine anyone wanting that.

I think it was Naval Ravikant who said recently that the ideal is to be rich or financially independent enough to not worry too much, + anonymous. Rich AND famous is a never-ending nightmare and poor + famous is pretty much the worst outcome because you have such reduced freedom and privacy and don't know who your real friends are.

I don't care about being kicked out of the 9-zero club or whatever, I just want to lay about all day or if I want to take a week trip to Kenya or Moscow... and NO BOSS

That was one of the more butt hurt of all possible interpretations of what I said. And without knowing anything at all about you, and only judging from your comment, my guess is that hit a bit of a nerve. Why is that?

And I didn’t mean to say that playing with three year old kids in the garden is the only thing that is worth pursuing. It was just an example close to my hearth right now in my life in my circumstances and in my part of the world. Of course there are many other worthy pursuits. My point was only that trying to get a bigger pile of money than other people I don’t consider one of them.

Of course you can. True happiness is something that can't be controlled. So anyone who tells you you can't be happy doing a particular thing isn't right.

Granted there are some things we shouldn't be happy doing but I think that we all know what they are and it goes without saying.

Generally, happiness is a reward from doing what your genes want you to do. The greatest happiness therefore, should be found in the process of breeding and caring for offspring.

Social status (consumption, skills and achievements) helps you secure higher quality mates and offers greater security to your offspring. That's why gaining social status, feels worthwhile, but without kids it feels a bit empty.

Before kids, I knew the breeding was pretty good fun, but my genes gave me no indication that having kids would be fun too.

Perhaps thats just to ensure those genes are spread far and wide and to concentrate on social status before the all consuming process of caring for offspring begins.

> Generally, happiness is a reward from doing what your genes want you to do.

I disagree. Generally happiness comes from being happy/content/thankful for what you have (as opposed to "having a lot"). You can be happy having no children, no fortune, no fame, etc. Conversely all of these do not guarantee happiness - Robin Williams committed suicide despite having them all, I think it's fair to assume he was not happy.

> Robin Williams committed suicide despite having them all, I think it's fair to assume he was not happy.

That's why I added 'Generally' and 'should be found'. It would be fair to say that Robin Williams was ill.

overly reductive evolutionary psychology 101 but ok...

Or social skills, many highly gifted also have less developed social skills.

Is this actually true, except from a normative perspective?

Onne would definitely expect the highly gifted to think/act differently socially as well as in several other areas, but is it actually correct to say they have less "developed skills", except possibly in the sense that they probably has had less reason to, and fever opportunities to develop these skills with their peers?

this implies that having social skills in themselves are not a gift someone can possess.

Every time I am wrong, I rejoice, because it means I learned something new, I just objectively became less dumb. Ego is the bane of learning. Smart people with ego usually aren’t as smart as you think, it’s usually more luck, performance, and privilege.

Besides, “Mo money, mo problems”. I have a couple thousand square feet of house, few thousand square feet of yard and garden. It’s way too much for just me, I have a dedicated VR room. Billionaire or bust mentality is a sickness.

Didn't bother to read the article. Just the comments. My take? The smartest people I know are the ones who married well and have a great family and social life. Wealth / education are great but worthless if your personal life is a mess.

Take Benjamin Netanhau as an example. The guy is very wealthy and successful. I think he graduated from both Harvard and MIT. (Although one degree might be an MBA that anyone with money can do). However, he is married to a psycopat who controls his life and is hated by everyone around them. I don't even want to talk about his son. Do I want his life? Hell no!

I agree with the premise of this article. That armchair quarterbacking is rarely helpful and usually oversimplified.

But I dislike the common implication in the headline, which is that intelligence somehow always equates to wealth.

First of all, it's not always easy to judge how wealthy another person is, no matter their profession or outward appearance.

Secondly, I think we all need to disuade ourselves of the notion that everyone in the world wants to become wealthy. Plenty of extremely intelligent people are perfectly happy where they are and are perhaps smarter for not chasing wealth like all those genius entrepreneurs. Just look at the lives of those we idolize so much for their success. Do you really want that life? A lot don't. And there is a good chance people more intelligent than those "successful" people don't want that life either.

Additionally, I know quite a few wealthy people that are rather dim. But they were hard workers and an opportunity presented itself because they were at the right place at the right time and they took advantage of that opportunity and worked it dry.

I concur. It really depends on the reward function you chaise.

Let's say you are a genius OCD person being elated by seeing the numbers on your bank accounts go up and nothing much else. You live 60-90 years and at the end you have some big number there. In this case you were successful.

Let's say you are a more typical person, you'll probably have a larger set of reward functions and they may even change over time. Having money on the account to be able to cover costs and do some vanity spending is definitely rewarding to a point - until it becomes hollow. But then there are all those other reward functions, like maintaining a family, seeing your kids grow up, see the world, play games, learn new things and maybe build or invent a thing or two. Maybe just shine as a social focal point or any number of other things. Maybe just watching turtles in various environments.

The only thing that we can't extend as a reward function is acquiring more time, like money on the bank account. So balancing the reward functions for a reasonable contentedness with life is generally what we strive to do, even if we don't spell it out that way.

We start young and see all the possibilities and the scarceness of time is not a pressing matter - reward functions are more about enjoying life. Then with a family you see time passing, become more aware of it. You learn from the things you messed up and know that some things can't be fixed and your reward function will become more about stability and preservation.

And then you die.

Would you agree that higher intelligence equates to a greater likelihood of wealth over the long run (lifetime)?

As a general trend, yes. But since your life is lived with N=1 and you can't generally change your innate intelligence, that is not usually relevant to guide decision making.

No. No correlation.

[perhaps obsolete now that the title's been changed]

> the author uses a witty title on an article on business strategy

> the HN poster keeps the title almost verbatim, as is tradition

> people in the thread commence writing about the title instead of the article's content

So it goes.

I don’t really understand the point of the article. It seems to be challenging an assumption that being “smart” has something to do with being financially successful. But why would we start with that assumption? Why would we conflate being “intelligent” with being good at making money?

To me, this seems as preposterous as asking “if you’re so smart, why are you so bad at playing the violin, or why aren’t you a Hollywood movie star, or why can’t you run a 4 minute mile, or why don’t you have a million Twitter followers?”

Even if we make the questionable assumption that the very concept of general intelligence (something like what an IQ test purports to show) is sensible, why would we assume that it correlates positively with success in any conceivable discipline?

Nah it just means too many people think they are "smart" while not applying their supposed edge to get any practical thing done better.

Money is just one example. The baseline is "if you are so smart why how come you don't have a better life", this can be more money, a better job, more time for your children, a hotter wife for some.

If you don't like the materialistic versions, My personal version of it is "if you are so smart why are you complaining so much instead of fixing your problems"..

love your personal version

The article doesn't really use a strict equality between being "intelligent" and being good at making money. It's more an implication, that being good at making money implies being probably something like "intelligent".

Now having this established, your examples of playing the violin and Hollywood stars doesn't make any sense. They are reading the relation backwards. The implication holds the other way round.

The implication you are pointing at still an assumption.

If we can't assume that Hollywood stars or concert violinists are intelligent (even if not all intelligent people can be those things), then why would it naturally be so with financially successful people?

The examples still make sense under the premise that the assumption is off.

Sure, it's an assumption.

But saying that all concert violinists are intelligent is something different than saying that everybody, who is intelligent, is a concert violinist.

Speaking only for myself, I strongly held the idea that being "smart" was the most important thing. It's only in the last 5 years that I've really come to regret that view. (For context I'm in my late 30's) Ideas are cheap, getting things done is valuable.

I remember the thought I had when I did this same belief-flip: ideas alone aren't worth the paper they're written on.

I thought there was a correlation between intelligence and income?

There is no correlation between being an idiot and being rich. Being rich is (in most cases) the ability to... Sell yourself, for the lack of a better expression. And smart people commonly can't sell themselves or their products because they often solve problems which are far more complex than the ones ordinary people have. They will spend brutal amounts of resources and efforts to solve a problem which ordinary people just don't have. Ask any developer how often have they been in a non-tech circle having a casual conversation and saying "Wait, you paid how much for someone to do X?"

X usually being the work of two (below) average Joe developers which can be done in a few weeks. And there you are, sitting and wondering how to build something big.

Which is another common mistake: people rarely become rich overnight and it's a gradual process. You are looking at people who are light years ahead of you, while the route to success is a tight and windy mountain road, full of crests and dips. Looking at the people standing on the mountain peak isn't productive and doesn't give you any valuable information. It's those who are one or two corners ahead of you that you need to be looking at.

> There is no correlation between being an idiot and being rich

Correction: there is actually a rather strong correlation [0].

Of course it is not a perfect correlation and a lot depends on other factors like luck or hard work. So out of a billion people you can always point to millions who are outliers.


There is a correlation between intelligent and income but we have been conditioned to misunderstand what intelligence is. we are taught that schooling is as sign of intelligence but that is just a sign of Memory and a sign of formatting. Many people fail because their ideas as are not formatted correctly or their ability to remember remember during an exam. There are many people who have failed education and still succeed in their dreams. Elon Musk is an example where he said "I didn't go to Harvard but all my lawyers did".Is Musk more intelligent that his lawyers even though he does not have the same education. So what is intelligence? The issues is also how do you measure success. May people choose Money as that quantifies things and then we can compare. The main issue is Quality is not comparable. Neither is Happiness. Success can only be measured with yourself. because you have to do the things that need doing to get into the positions to be seen as dumb. The Politician who says some really dumb thing or the businessman that does not seem to know what he is doing, have done some really smart things to be in a position to be dumb.

Musk went to an Ivy League...

> While awaiting Canadian documentation, Musk attended the University of Pretoria for five months.[51] Once in Canada, Musk entered Queen's University in 1989, avoiding mandatory service in the South African military.[52] He left in 1992 to study economics and physics at the University of Pennsylvania; he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics and a Bachelor of Science degree in physics.[53][54][failed verification]

src: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elon_Musk

Since this is about money, isn't that a bias? I mean what are the chances of "son of (insert a billionaire name here)" to be rich vs me. TBH I can be stupid too with that amount of money, since I can afford it.

To answer the question posed in the title (and yes, I read the fluffy article) - luck decides who gets rich.

Yeah, I'm just lying here in my bed waiting to get rich... maybe I will be lucky one day...

Luck plays a role but smart and successful people often create many opportunities to get lucky.

"Trust your luck, Taran Wanderer. But don't forget to put out your nets!" ― Llonio (Lloyd Alexander)

Luck is when ability and preparedness meet an opportunity.

Even if that's true, it still implies that everyone else mostly aren't idiots, because otherwise it wouldn't take luck to get rich, all it would take is outsmarting all these idiots everywhere.

Nope. Luck does not imply causality. Everyone can be an idiot (including you) and you can still be lucky. Or there can be a mixture of idiots and geniuses and you can still be lucky.

"Luck does not exist" is not required, because that's just a separate path to getting rich. You can win the lottery and it's pure luck. But if you're really smarter than everyone else then you should still be able to figure out how to get their money even if you only have the ordinary amount of luck.

The point is you cannot outsmart lucky idiots.

I think that’s needlessly reductionist. Read the biographies of people like Mark Cuban and Richard Branson: both of these men were born entrepreneurs and salesmen, with Cuban starting his first business at age 12 and Branson at age 16.

A good parallel to this is the music industry, actually: yes, there is a significant amount of luck in “making it.” But you cannot deny that talent is one of the strongest predictors: at the very least, talent is the bar to entry.

I think people like Cuban and Branson are good examples of those who "make their own luck", where they're running the business version of Monte Carlo simulation until something sticks. They definitely have the right mindset and skillset to do things like run a business successfully, but obviously the probability of success increases with the number of attempts.

Yeah, but the music industry also has an issue that a surprising number of non-musical things are considered talent. "Production value" as was said in Tape Heads.

Looking at examples of successful people is classic survivorship bias. Smart people who lucked out on their businesses do not get to write biographies.

EDIT: spelling

Being smart may not be sufficient, but seems necessary atleast to make your own money.

True, but you can't get lucky when you keep sitting on your couch.

Yes you can. You just had to pop out of the right vagina.

Are you born in the west, male and white? If you are you're lucky. And those traits will allow you, even against your best efforts to fall upwards over your lifetime.

Also, you have a couch, and get to sit on it, that's a lucky thing to do.

To be lazy is an indulgence that not all unlucky people have.

Luck favours the prepared.

Luck by definition is an independent variable.

Edit: I don't know who downvoted me, but this is the definition of luck according to Google: "success or failure apparently brought by chance rather than through one's own actions"

Luck just determines specific momentary opportunities that that have the potential to set you in the right direction. The thing is, you need to be prepared to take advantage of those opportunities, as well as work on increasing the occurrence rate of those opportunities.

It’s like playing blackjack. Ultimately, it all comes down to luck, but you are significantly increasing your chances of winning by employing certain (legitimate) strategies rather than playing your hand randomly and hoping for luck to hit you.

What you describe is not luck, but different rates of probability. Luck is I would say when you have 50% of chance of winning.

Otherwise by definition it is not luck, but a high chance of winning.

Yes and no. Like lottery ticket - you can get one, or you can decide not to buy any in your life, or commit to buying 1 ticket a day for life.

Particularly when your family prepared for you

Even when it didn't.

Really? So is being smart completely useless, or does it help everywhere except with getting rich?

We are bioelectrical puppets driven by quantum effects, so everything we do is decided by luck.

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