This may be the worst-kept secret in the world, but I'm a big nerd. I fly my geek flag proudly, among my collection of Star Wars toys and past experience publishing economic research. I'm one of those people who will answer a question with a question and enjoys debating just for the sake of examining issues from all sides. So when I was recently selected to serve on jury duty, found myself appointed to a grand jury, and randomly assigned as our foreman, of course I had to take a few minutes to calculate the odds of that happening. When I walked into the courthouse that day, what were the chances of all three of those random assignments happening to me? Turns out 0.6%, but I digress...
That got me thinking about probability. Not just in the context of a particular job at jury duty, but in terms of existing at all. What are the odds that I would even be alive to ask these questions? Luckily I'm not the first to ponder this and there are much smarter people who have done the math to estimate on our behalf. Here's a summary of the calculation:
"The chances of your parents meeting, finding each other attractive and enjoying each other’s company, continuing to stay together and having a child is 1 in 2,000. The chances of you being conceived to become who you are (that is, that one particular egg meeting that single sperm; nice imagery for you there) is 1 in 4 quadrillion. The odds of your lineage remaining unbroken long enough to create you: 1 in 10[45,000]. That’s my incredibly unclear way of writing 10 with 45,000 zeros after it, so I don’t fill up this entire page with 0’s. This means that every single one of your ancestors also had to be conceived to become exactly who they were, so that scales the chance of you existing down to 1 in 10[2,640, 000]. When you calculate all of these possibilities and chances, the chances of you existing right now as you are (presumably with a huge headache after reading this) is basically zero."
If your mind's not blown yet, let's add in the Fermi Paradox. This question asks why we are seemingly alone in the universe when the odds of other intelligent life existing somewhere are overwhelmingly high. Some scientists estimate there could be over 100 billlion billion Earth-like planets in the universe (or about 100 for every grain of sand in the world), which means there should be as many as 100,000 intelligent civilizations in our galaxy. And yet here we are, apparently on our own at this precise point in time of our planet's 4.5 billion year history.
The odds of you being here at this very second, reading this blog, are practically zero. All the math says neither of us should exist, and despite the odds we're connecting on a virtual platform that has only been around for a relatively short time. What if someone told you there was no chance you'd live to see tomorrow? Would you be doing anything differently? Living with a different sense of urgency and fearlessness? If the odds are against you existing at all, each moment you are on the earth is a miracle.
It's so easy to get bogged down in our responsibilities and forget that we are incredibly lucky to be defying these odds. We have a fleeting chance to make our life as spectacular as possible despite whatever challenges come our way. The years we spend making a small dent in our own corner of the universe will pass like the blink of an eye in the grand scheme of time. So stop waiting, debating, and worrying. That trip you'd love to take? Book it. That class you've been meaning to take? Start it. That idea for a business you've always wanted to start? Make it happen. You've come this far, are you going to let something like fear or procrastination stop you now? You're here for a reason, and if you're not sure what that is, it's time to get busy figuring it out.