It was the 18th of August, 1913.
An ordinary evening in Monte Carlo, Monaco. People were at the casinos, betting, earning, and losing. Slowly, a crowd started gathering near the roulette table. Something weird was happening!
The roulette ball kept falling on Black, turn after turn.
The crowd went into a frenzy, betting on Red. The ball, after all, was not Arsenal in 2004; its streak had to end. But the streak of Black went on for 26 turns! People had lost millions by then, betting on Red.
At this point, you’d think, people who bet on Red on the 27th turn were lucky. They were, but not for long. They now thought a long streak of Black would be followed by a long streak of Red. What happened next, probably won’t shock you.
All of this happened because of a cognitive bias in our heads. Psychologists call this The Gambler’s Fallacy. People tend to believe in the Law of Averages, which assumes that if something is true for a large population, it’ll also be true for a small population.
Remember all those times as a kid when you were tossing coins and you told yourself, “Okay, so the last 3 times, I got a Heads. This time, Tails pucca!” This, again, is the Gambler’s Fallacy.
What we forget is that the coin has no memory. It does not remember what it showed last time. So, it is possible that you can get all Heads even if you toss the coin 20 times.
At this point, you’re probably thinking to yourself, “Haha this is fun.” Except, that it isn’t. Let’s find out what Hari Sadu is doing right now.
Hari Sadu is an ordinary farmer in a remote village of Haryana. He is a nice man and everything, but right now, he is screaming at his wife. She just delivered their third daughter.
This doesn’t bode well for her. She must again get pregnant and go through the whole ordeal, in the hope of a male child. Hari Sadu is a little excited though. He has already had three daughters, and this time there’s no way he’s not going to get a male child. Hari Sadu clearly believes in the Law of Averages.
In about a year, Hari Sadu’s wife will bear another kid. Will Hari scream at his wife again? Or will he forgive her last three sins? There’s no way of foretelling. And that is what Hari Sadu must remember. Neither the ovum nor the sperm cells will remember whether they created a boy or a girl the last time.
The reason I wrote this blogpost is because I believe that there are more Hari Sadus in this world than we’d like to imagine. They are all around us too, the seemingly educated, who hope against hope that this time they’d get lucky, just because they did not get lucky the last ten times.
In the best-case scenario, you’ll see your friend saying, “Oh I am not preparing this section because a question has already come in the first slot.” In the worst-case, you’ll hear Hari Sadu’s wife crying copiously, because she knows her fourth daughter will never get to see the light of day.