Friday, May 23, 2008

The good luck algorithm.

The good luck algorithm.

I recently had the opportunity to hear an MIT professor speak at a conference. The topic of her discourse was casinos and it was terribly fascinating. Honestly, some of the things she told us were pretty startling. There was one idea in particular that I have been unable to shake and that is, the "good luck algorithm."

You see, casinos gather reams and reams of information about the people that play in them. They study the ergonomics of the slot machines, the impact of different lighting systems, the number of times a certain type of person will play a certain type of game, etc. But the scariest thing they measure is something called your "pain point."

That's a phrase they use to describe your threshold for abuse. A pain point represents how much money you can lose before you'll get up and leave. A pain point represents how taken advantage of you will be before you exit the casino. A pain point represents your breaking point.

Why do they measure it? So they know when to start the "good luck algorithm."

Here is how it works: When you hit your pain point, casinos see that happening and will set in motion a process to win you back. Suddenly, as you walk down the long carpeted hall to the exit, someone taps you on the shoulder "randomly." They say, "excuse me, we just wanted to thank you for being such a loyal supporter of the casino. Would you like a free steak dinner and a coupon for five turns on a slot machine?" You smile a little. The pain starts to melt away. "Hey," you think, "maybe this place isn't so bad after all." You walk back in and start to play again.

The reason I mention this story is that I think the devil works the same way. Not that casinos are demonic, but that the devil has his own algorithm, the "bad luck algorithm." When things are going well in your life, when things are moving along smoothly, suddenly someone taps you on the shoulder, "Hey, Mark, is that you? It's me Pamela, we dated in college? Wow, it's been so long, you still look great. Haven't lost those college muscles." Or maybe it's just the opposite, in the midst of a really challenging time, you see the chance for some momentary escape. A sign for a strip club suddenly feels larger and more inviting than it used to. The chance to buy those shoes and never tell your husband about the money suddenly materializes. Some temptation dances it's way magically across your field of vision. In an obvious way. In a subtle way, it doesn't matter.

Wherever you are, remember, the tap on your shoulder is never accidental. It's never coincidence. It's never "just one of those things."

It's the bad luck algorithm. And if you're not careful to tell God you need help with the math of your life, the odds are going to be stacked against you.

8 comments:

jessica @pianomomsicle said...

Oh man. i was reading this post and feeling pretty high and mighty. Why'd you have to put in the part about the shoes and hiding them from my husband and if he asked about them i'd say "They're old shoes, honey! i've had them forever!"

It's good though. Nothing like a challenging post to wrap up my Firday night's blogging:)

Mike said...

Great post!

It' a great reminder that our opponent has a *plan*. We better have one too.

Thanks for your blog-o-riffic ministry!

vanilla said...

So true. The tap on the shoulder comes in good times and in bad. The package presented is wrapped to fit the circumstance; but what is contained within is poison.

Great reminder. Stay alert!

The Christian Ranter said...

Great post. If you think about it, there's a stark difference between how God can handle our being tempted and how a casino does it. Have you ever noticed that there are all kinds of moving walkways going only one way into a casino and never out? You have to search and search to find an exit and there ain't no moving walkway out.

God however tells us that if we are tempted, we can be sure that there is a moving walkway out of that temptation if we only choose to step onto it.

Brandon said...

I really liked your post and thought it was very thought-provoking. It made me think about the possibility of us attributing events to God that could possibly be random and vice versa. It seems very dependent on the individual's mood :)

Andy not Stanley said...

I used to really love casinos. I still love math -- I like to count cards and beat the system in blackjack. But I've had to counsel men who lose their month's pay on the evening of payday, and have a wife and kid to support.

As for casinos being or not being demonic...

When you look around a casino, you can see such obvious deception and manipulation, like the moving sidewalks. There are no clocks or windows; it's easy to stay well into the wee hours. The only ATMs have huge service charges and will certainly allow you to get a cash advance on a credit card. Drinks are free; alcohol impairs judgement and increases profits. Even sound is carefully controlled. When you win on a slot machine, the coins hit the tray very loudly, and the machine plays a nice little tune, so even a 50-cent win is deafening. But the sound of money going into machines makes hardly any noise at all. And the pit bosses do monitor your wins and losses, offering comps (Free food, hotel rooms, gifts, etc.) when you have lost a certain amount in the hopes you will return or stay longer. Veteran table gamers learn to disguise their wins and manipulate the bosses for comps. With all of that in mind, I can't return to a casino, even though I don't have a gambling problem. There's just absolutely nothing good that can happen there.

Rach said...

Your blog rocks.

Richard said...

Jon, great sites, great blogs and great blogers. I'm sure many feel at home here.

I, never enjoy being tempted but love overcoming the temptation. The experience of overcoming the temptations hails my present life as His presence and after all, isn't that what we all desire, all the time... His undeniable presence? The realization of a present Loving Faith no matter where He has us.

Well I'm tempted to feel like He's no where around right now and focus on myself and my bad works rather than His work... is God allowing Satan to throw a pitch to the casino of self pity (to stretch my faith)? Looks like God the Father might want want me to focus on the treasure He is rather than the loser I might fanthom myself as being,and without Him we are more than losers.

Interesting reading Jon. The science of gambeling casinos, like all worldy science, is no more than a chess game between non-security and non-secure trying to be secure. I remember how awe struck I was when I found out that the game of chess had a limited amount of moves. Perhaps that is the difference between death and Life since one can only be for itself while the other can only be a self for others.

Just a thought.