Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Why I played the Mega Million

The Ticket
I don't gamble. I grew up being told that gambling was wrong and somehow it stuck, the strange effect parents have on us. Except for the occasional workplace Powerball which I join for team spirit and to also avoid being the poor jerk at the work place where everybody suddenly becomes a millionaire, I only entered a casino when I went to Las Vegas for a wedding and I stuck with the penny slot machines.

Today however, I played the Mega Million. With a jackpot of over 650 million dollars what have I got to lose. I know I am not going to win. It is easier for a crocodile to bite you in the anus right in the middle of the African Sahara desert than it is to defy the odds and win the jackpot.

The chances of winning the Mega Million jackpot according to probability mathematicians are 1 in 259 million. So how does this probability compare in real life? Well it is 1000 times more likely for you to be hit by an asteroid or comet than to win the Mega  Million jackpot. It is more likely for the history teacher in Methodist Kailahun to manufacture a rocket that he will use to travel to the moon tomorrow than it is to win the jackpot.
Will Avoid this Cold 

So if it is so difficult to win, why do people play. The reason is simple; as long as the probability of winning is not zero, there is still a chance of winning no matter how slight. Even if the probability of winning asymptotically tends to zero, it is still not zero.

So I played today knowing I will not win but hoping I may. Who knows, a crocodile may fall out of a plane and fall right in the middle of the Sahara while you are sitting in the desert relieving yourself. Coming from Sierra Leone and from a very poor and marginalized area of the country, I think it is my obligation to try for this chance to help my people even if the probability of that help occurring is so small that it could not be seen under a microscope.

So I am playing, sure of failure, but aware that if I did not play, the probability of that failure will be 100 percent. At least by playing, I am decreasing the probability of failing to 99.99999999999999% with no rounding up and just neglecting the rest of the other 9s.

So what will I do if I am lucky enough to get bitten in the buttocks by a crocodile in the middle of the Sahara? In other words, what will I do if somehow I win?

The first thing I will do is establish a wind energy farm around the peninsula ranges of Freetown to give the city power from a renewable source. With the peninsula range so close to the Atlantic, we will always be assured of cheap wind power, better than most I have seen in America.

The next thing I will do is help the Sierra Leone government upgrade the Connaught hospital in the capital Freetown, spending at least 5 million dollars on a state of the art Dialysis facility in the country. With the high incidence of blood pressure in that country, where every single meal has sodium glutamate in the form of either Maggi, Jumbo or Ajino Moto, and with the consumption of alcohol growing exponentially in the country mainly due to lack of education as to its harmful effects and the 444, Sierra Leone badly needs renal and state of the art lab facilities.

Another area of investment will be to pour about 20 million dollars into governance and public administration programs at our universities. The current crop of Sierra Leone government employees really need  a lot of training about the distinction between public service and political party loyalty. Our public policies in Sierra Leone today are based more on political expediency than on sound pinciples of public administration and that is a real shame and tragedy for a country that is so far behind in almost every index of human development.

The rest of the money will be for family and good friends, investments and the rest devoted to charity. So even though my probability of losing is near certainty, there are two very important facts in life; it is better to fail than not to try. For it is only by trying that you fail and only by not failing that you succeed. The other important thing in life is that instead of saying I wish it would have been me, try to do the best you can to make it be you.

With that I will go to bed and wait for the results tomorrow, confident that I will not win, but glad that at least I tried. Whoever wins tonight know that you are one very lucky guy and may you live long to spend the money well.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

SM,
You did not include all the bribes you will need to pay in order to do your good deeds. Also, I would say you'd do better investing in NGOs that do the work on the ground. Any money given to any government entity in SL will vanish into thin air. Lastly, if you do win tonight, please add me to your list of good frirends.

Sheku Sheriff said...

Anon if you concentrate on all the negatives, you will never do anything in Sierra Leone. But the responsibility of democracy is learning to work together with people you disagree with. There is no way you can do any substantial project in Sierra Leone without working with the government. To progress in life we have to be realistic.

Sheku Sheriff said...

Well the results are out. Two extremely lucky people in California and Georgia won the cool 650 million. I guess Connaught Hospital will have to wait.