The Tip.It Times

Issue 999gp

The Curse of Probabilistic Knowledge

Written by and edited by Tip.It

Consider the following rudimentary statistical logic problem, typically offered a first year student engaging in introduction to statistics:

You are flipping a fair coin with two potential outcomes: head and tails. In your first 9 tosses, the outcome of each toss is heads. What is the probabilistic outcome of “heads” being the correct response for the tenth toss?

For someone whom has never taken statistics or understand the logic behind independent trials, a complex algorithm could follow, some brain-meltingly complex collection of numbers. For someone that does understand, this is a simple trick question: there is a fifty percent chance of tossing a head next. The rationale is simple; what has happened in previous tosses does NOT affect what will happen in this toss.

This logic has built giant casinos, as people fail to wrap their head around the core concept: You’re only as lucky as your next roll.

We see this every day in Runescape, and some of us wrap our entire RuneScape character’s activities around the willful ignorance of this fact. We may know full well the laws of probabilistic logic, and intentionally ignore what we know to avoid coming to grips with the cold reality. I know that I do this myself, and do my best to ignore the raw math behind my poor logic.

”I’ve killed about 60 metal dragons per assignment, on about 50 different assignments. Since the estimated drop rate of the Draconic Visage is 1 / 1000 (arbitrary drop rate), I’m -due- to get that drop during my next task.”

I am lying to myself here, and I know it. My chance of getting that great drop / clue reward / etc. is really no better than it was on my first kill / clue / etc., but how can you survive such fatalistic logic? We know that truly "random" drop rates are perhaps impossible to program, and that the most likely programming strategy is simple "yes/no" binary drop decisions on fixed probabilities. This math makes me sad. I turn my attention to Karma, the last grasp of a desperate man.

Karma is a fairly well known concept, and while I will not pretend to understand all the critical tenet of the belief set, the core underlying theme could be paraphrased by someone as oafish as I as “what goes around, comes around”. It’s simple, it’s elegant, and it’s an effective way for me to willingly suspend disbelief that there is a higher power keeping track of all things happening, and will find small ways to settle the great score, and ensure that your good deeds are properly rewarded in the ultimate scorecard.

Being fairly hands-off from a religious perspective, I have no problem with this, or any other life belief system that in the long run teaches us that there is a reason to do good things. Whether it’s Jesus, Vishnu, Moses, Spirit Thetans, or The Flying Spaghetti Monster, as long as you’re doing good things, by all means enjoy your own beliefs in peace.

The problem with Karma is that I refuse to believe any higher power would spend their time overseeing Karma as it pertains to lucky drops in a computer game. To make matters worse, there is an enormous archive of data that suggests no such logic was programmed in by the only higher power RS players can worship, SaraZamoGuthaZaroLucieJAGEX. This is why every time you see a really nice person who rarely plays get that visage drop, you smile, outwardly wish them well, and secretly desire to ram a pen into your ear.

And at the end, I’m left with a simple New Year’s Resolution: to hell with probability! If my own logic is self-defeating, then perhaps we’re better served to ignore that probability altogether and just play for the hell of it. Ignorance is bliss! If you need me, I’ll be playing with my lucky eyepatch on, a rabbit’s foot tied around my wrist, and my sacred Yoda / Gizmo statuettes hot-glued to my laptop cover.

Ignorance is bliss, baby.

Did You Know...
... that only a handfull of skills are NOT used in Stealing Creation? Farming, Slayer, and Firemaking are the ONLY three skills not used or otherwise represented in this unique and versatile minigame. (Thanks to The Tal Shiar Alliance!)

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Will you use Menaphos to train your skills?

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