Because entry into a group broadly follows what in marketing is called the purchase funnel. (Sometimes window.) You start wide and then you narrow in… And then eventually you commit to something. Be it an iPhone or a modern recreation of a loosely affiliated collection of customs that sometimes included cannibalism and child marriage.
Oh god, I hope it’s not an iPhone.
Anyway, I have been thinking about what the step is between “broad awareness that the universe is probably a bit weird and magical” to “regularly casting practical enchantments to improve one’s living conditions.”
Somewhere in the back of my brain is a recollection of something in one of the Farrar’s books (gonna say the bible) about beginners having a tendency to “light up on the astral.”
There is a widely held idea that magic follows the rules of beginner’s luck in much the same way as gambling. You are good because you are new.
Except that gambling doesn’t.
Beginner’s luck is an heuristic error.
The overwhelming amount of first-time gamblers lose money and stop gambling. It is only the ones that have a run of positive results that stick with it and become regular gamblers.
It is a self-selecting group. Here’s a bit from the wikipedia page:
“Suppose that 100 beginners play a game for the first time, and half win by random chance. The half that won is more likely to take an interest in the game and become experts, while the half that lose is more likely to lose interest and never play again. Thus, is any game, the “experts” will believe in beginner’s luck, simply because they disproportionately experienced it themselves.”
Consider the belief in magical beginner’s luck in light of this?
“Are you undermining your own talent through a faulty statistical conclusion?”
Because a lot of people dabble in magic. Or try it once. Think of all those Mind Body Spirit book sales. Are they the gamblers that didn’t have the unlikely run of positive results?
Gambling and magic
What is the difference between gambling and magic from a statistical standpoint?
- Gambling is purely probabilistic. (Even blackjack balances out to probabilistic as a result the law of large numbers.)
- Practical magic is not random. It relies on skill. But its impact is felt in exclusively probabilistic outcomes.
What is the implication of this?
Magicians, like gamblers, are still a self-selecting group except the self-selection is based on talent rather than unlikely probabilistic outcomes.
What I am saying is you need to give yourself big ups for your own magical awesomeness. And, if you hold it, maybe park the notion that “anyone can do magic” until there is more evidence that this is so.
Does luck not come into play, then?
Hells no. I am a big fan of luck magic. It’s probably the enchantment category I am best at. But maybe that has to do with having an interest in probability which would have inform precisely which windmills I decide to tilt at?
Numbers to rock your world
If you haven’t seen this presentation it is an absolute must. You won’t view human progress in the same way again.
And if you like it then maybe you want to consider adding some probability studies to your to-do list. My guess would be that an aptitude for some kinds of practical magics could indicate a potential aptitude for probability.