Maria Konnikova On Control And Chance

Maria Konnikova

Over and over, people would overestimate the degree of control they had over events — smart people, people who excelled at many things, people who should have known better… The more they overestimated their own skill relative to luck, the less they learned from what the environment was trying to tell them, and the worse their decisions became… The illusion of control is what prevented real control over the game from emerging — and before long, the quality of people’s decisions deteriorated. They did what worked in the past, or what they had decided would work — and failed to grasp that the circumstances had shifted so that a previously successful strategy was no longer so. People failed to see what the world was telling them when that message wasn’t one they wanted to hear. They liked being the rulers of their environment. When the environment knew more than they did — well, that was no good at all. Here was the cruel truth: we humans too often think ourselves in firm control when we are really playing by the rules of chance.