I, The Absolute

The epsilon factor of life

Posted by itheabsolute on October 3, 2005

Human being is a lump of impure carbon and water impotently crawlingly in a small and unimportant planet – Bertrand Russell

I tend to agree with the view that human life, as much as the conditions on earth that made life possible, are an accident, but not a deliberate design. I know that there are many who don’t agree, and sometimes stakes and passions could be high in topics such as this.

The point is not to debate the macro issue of the purpose of the universe, but to bring it down to a relatively micro-level and talk about this factor in life called luck. Statistics has a word called noise / error factor given to it, and has ‘epsilon’ representing this factor. Any model can be created to explain various phenomena in life, but an epsilon is always tagged to it, just to say that there are certain things, which are unexplainable and cannot be captured by these models. Chaos theory tries to explain such random events but not with much success.

I am sure many of us had a few instances such as those mentioned below

 We stand in a queue to get tickets for our favorite movie. Just when we reach the window, the tickets get over.

 Rainy season – we carry umbrella everyday. It does not rain. One day, we get lazy (since it has not been raining, why should I carry) and venture out without one. It rains that day.

 We sit in front of the TV to watch favorite program. The power goes off.

 We have been waiting for a meeting with a friend / dear one whom we have not met for a long time. Boss gives us extra work, we have to travel that day, or Boss visits the town/city we are in the same day.

There can be innumerable such incidents which are unexplainable. We tend to blame all sorts of things to explain these. But these are mere events which have no correlation with our being per se. They are not happening with me alone. They happen with every one. This is the noise factor or epsilon factor of life.

Why am I writing all these? I see attempts being made by people to rationalize life, to explain everything, to put blame on luck or God, etc. Life cannot be explained. There are too many events, which just happen and have no correlation or association per se with our scheme of things. No astrology, not palmistry, not zodiac signs will help these. The maturity lies in accepting these things as being purely random and completely uncontrollable (in spite of my passion for ‘free will’ as a driver of decision making). The only way to control these is by learning to control our responses to these events, rather than by trying to control these events themselves.

But if someone can (claim to) know future, thanks again to the supposed powers of astrology, et al, the only purpose it should serve is to give the power to the person to change the future.


1. My views. And I tend to be passionate about what I believe or don’t believe.
2. Does the topic explain why people turn to the supernatural to take solace since there is not much that we can do about such events? Perhaps yes for many.
3. Despite all the best efforts / best profile / everything else working well, not getting admission to a b-school could be the work of epsilon factor. The best response here is to control the response to such event and think about ways to diversify/reduce risk such epsilon factor can bring. Applying to more than one school is a simple diversification strategy. Applying second time increases chances of admission, which is another way of handling such risk.

5 Responses to “The epsilon factor of life”

  1. Anonymous said

    Understanding the cause and also Timing is a factor for things todo.

    Nicely written.

  2. Kiran said

    rightly put, diversification does lead to reduction in epsilon, whether in life or financial markets…but I would definitely draw your attention to the pattern of epsilon factors each one has to go through…a definite pattern(when the efforts towards this are taken, the result will be visible) to identify and estimate, again an epsilon here, but the prob. of this epsilon occurring will be low…maybe we can try achieving this rather than trying to eliminate epsilon altogether.

  3. Anonymous said

    Well written.. I like the way you explain yourself.. You blog is good to read.

    But if we accept everything as some ‘epsilon’ without trying to understand the cause .. we may be no where.. I think humans have a basic urge to understand to explain things. This urge may not be overcome so easily.

  4. vin said

    Nice thoughts as always..

  5. Dinesh said

    Your post couldn’t have come at a better time. I myself I’m in the process of completing my bschool applns.

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