Wednesday, October 8, 2014

That Old Gambling Tip

Everyone's too smart to fall for gambling tips via e-mail, right? You know how it works--there are 64 games in the season, and a few million targeted marks. The gambling expert sends out a tip to every mark for every game, 50% of each message predicting one team the winner, 50% picking the other as the winner. Several games in, a certain percentage of the marks has received only positive picks, so it begins to look, to this subgroup, like the gambling expert is right every time. And for them, the expert is right every time. They have proof positive of it. You'd be a fool not to listen. You pour in the money, and if you lose, there's still a 90%+ chance that you'll win next time, because of the long track record you've been previously following. In a way, it is rational and intelligent to keep pouring money in until so many picks turn out to be wrong that you've dropped below 50%. And every time a pick turns out to be right, you're vindicated. Lullabies play and it seems like you're on the right track.

The gambling experts--the cons, of course--know that, by sending out enough mailers, they're guaranteed to produce a sub-group of a few dozen thousand people who think that their tips are 100% accurate. It's advertising, trolling, primping; it's a guaranteed investment with a foolproof return, up until the point when people learn to stop accepting any advice or predictions that involve money in any way.

So we don't fall for that, because it's "just gambling," but then, when the Chief Investment Officer at a particular firm sings the siren song of 5-year copper futures, it must be right, because he was right last time. His 5,000 word article, like a 5,000 word analysis of the Steelers' injuries this season, proves that these things aren't random, right? Eat butter, don't eat butter, from the doctor and/or guru who told you not to eat white rice the last time around, when things worked out so well.

We're all very savvy, but when we look at things like decades of wildly divergent and contradictory advice, we tend to conclude, "They can come up with a study proving anything." Which is true, but that's missing a lot of the details. It's not that they're coming up with new studies back and forth in a specific effort to market products. Rather, they are constantly coming up with a stream of all possible studies in a generalized effort to market everything. You're bound to fit into the target group for something, so if you buy magnetic wristbands instead of CT scans, it indicates that the game was over long ago--at the point when you were willing to assume that a set of financial advice was anything except a mass-market scam.

Al Qaeda is good, have some weapons, Al Qaeda is bad, die. ISIS is good, have some weapons, ISIS is bad, die. Are they crazy? Delusional? Merely selfish? Are they building up a threat now so that they can fight it later and enrich the MICC? Or are you just opening too many different envelopes in too short of a time? Hint: you're not supposed to be scoping your buddy's picks. It makes you confused and angry.

What makes you think it's such a dull conspiracy as MICC funding? They have a finger in every pot not because they're generically, specifically, targeted-audience evil, but because they're pure, unadulterated, all-encompassing evil. They've always been predicting that both the Rams and the Chiefs were going to win. What matters is that you watch the game. Which, for all of you smart people, doesn't mean that you're actually watching (since, unlike other people, you know professional wrestling is fixed, you smart fellow you), but that you're aware that the game is occurring. Unpacking an article on the last match is roughly equivalent to dissecting the Undertaker's latest body slam. Did his manager really pay the referee to look the other way while he hit an unruly fan with a folding chair? Oh, the scandal! How dare the Times focus on the Obliterator's contact renegotiation, completely marginalizing the more-pressing issue of the decaying cushions in the arena's cheap seats?! Converge on WWE headquarters with signs demanding immediate and equitable reupholstering!

The New York Times Review of Books, Roger Ebert, and their innumerable imitators know this well. A new release comes out, half of the cons push it and half ignore or bleah it. Ten years later, most people are convinced that so-and-so is really "in tune" with them, so they gobble up whatever they're told to. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, just like why the LA Raiders won last week; you have "proof" that so-and-so is good at picking movies, therefore you must've been "just tired" or "too stressed" or "missing something" if you didn't like the latest medical drama to the tune of fifteen hours of your time, or your team lost that week to the tune of five hundred dollars of your paycheck. Particularly in a culture full of internet access, movie and book reviews have a nationwide impact, so the long cons become even more efficient. No longer are you forced to rely on the three or four guys in the local "arts and culture" publication who play the review spread; you can go to a hundred independent websites and a hundred newspaper websites, until you find "that one lady who knows so much about movies," and watch whatever she tells you, since she's always right. Every few years they switch people from the reviews desk to the opinions desk, so that accumulated losses fade out and a new face can resume the pattern with a clean slate, proving to her or his fans either that gold is going to go up in the next few years because of domestic depletion, or that it's going to go down in the next few years because of foreign reserves.

But you're an independent decisionmaker, and some professionals really just do a good job.

1 comment:

  1. Since every inclination, drive, or want can be thus dissipated, it is officially a world with no exit.