Last week I got an email from my boss. He’s on holiday in Italy and he was just sending a fun update on his trip. One of the noteworthy parts of his email was that he had run into one of my co-workers, we’ll call her Cindy, randomly in St. Mark’s Square. Wow, what are the odds that they would be in such a far away place at the same time?
Well, let me think about this. I work in a huge company with thousands of employees, and the nature of my job, as well as my boss’s, require that we know many of these employees, so we know a lot of the same people. Cindy travels to Europe as often as possible, and my boss went to Italy for an entire month. Most people who go to Italy make a point of going to Venice, and St. Mark’s Square is a big tourist attraction in Venice. This time of year is a good time to visit Europe, because it’s not too hot yet.
The more I think about it the more it seems like it would have been weirder had my boss not either a) run into her, b) run into one of the hundreds of people we both know, or c) run into somebody he knows.
I could go on and on with instances of seemingly amazing coincidences that have happened to me or to people close to me, but I imagine that if I carefully examined each one of them there would be an explanation for why they aren’t so surprising.
The law of truly large numbers says that with a large enough sample any odd coincidence is likely to happen. It’s natural for people to look for patterns, and some people take these patterns and coincidences that happen as having meaning, or being evidence for something, when really there’s nothing extraordinary about a coincidence.
Here’s a great video explaining coincidences: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=98OTsYfTt-c