Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Luck and Creative Production

A nice recent On the Media story on a new book Magic Hours about the randomness of what books actually get published, and how works by authors like Kafka, Emily Dickenson and Melville were only published through sheer luck, suggesting that much creative output that we think is great, is only a small fraction of the potential of what may be out there.

Although luck is essential for success in most careers, it is especially evident in creative works like books, movies, music. Duncan Watts has a nice Music Lab experiment where he created a number of disjoint online communities but fed them all the same music. He found that what became popular in each sub-community was essentially arbitrary once a certain minimum quality threshold was met.

Malcolm Gladwell makes the point more generally in Outliers, that success in general in any field depends more on luck than people generally appreciate.

The fact that we normally don't think about the luck is just another example of the fundamental attribution error, and just suggests that we should both be more reserved in lauding success and in looking down on failure both in others but also ourselves.

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