A Gambler's Fallacy

Thursday, August 7th, 2003

You're walking through a casino and you spot a roulette table. Next to the table is a list of past results that indicate that the past 9 outcomes were all black. You have a preference for betting on red, so you pause for a moment to think. If you decide to make the bet, then you've just committed the gambler's fallacy.

Each spin on a roulette wheel is an independent event, so the past history does not provide any indication of future outcomes. If you rely on the past results, then you are incorrectly assuming that the next spin is a dependent event.

Probability is the study and measurement of uncertainty. This concept is crucial to the study of many areas of computer science, including cryptography, compression, and artificial intelligence (to name a few). The following article provides a brief discussion of independent and dependent events that illustrates the nature of the gambler's logical fallacy.

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