a one-question quiz

I’ll be the first to admit that a single question cannot summarize your entire personality. For that, you’d need three or four questions, minimum. Plus they would need to appear in the pages of Cosmo.

Still, for one question on the internet, I find this one illuminating.

Here’s the idea. I’m going to give you a single lottery ticket. It will pay you a prize of N dollars, with probability 1/N. The twist: you get to pick the value of N.

What do you choose?

With no right answers—each ticket, after all, has an expected value of $1—the game functions as a kind of personality test. Do you prefer safety or risk? How risky will you go?

In the past, I’ve collected over 700 answers, which have revealed four basic and extremely scientific personality types:

Rational Killjoys (roughly 1 in 3 people). They pick N = 1, taking a lottery ticket that pays out a guaranteed $1. I can’t tell if these people are smart or boring. Maybe smartness is boring. Still, I admire the logic of Jessamyn Dukes: “Given how delighted I am when I find a dollar in my pocket from past me,” Jessamyn explained, “I pick N = 1. Guaranteed free dollar and tiny serotonin boost? Sold.”

Seekers of Small Adventures (roughly 1 in 4 people). They pick N between 1 and 1000. It’s not quit-your-job money; just enough to make the game fun. “That would be enough to really enjoy winning,” explained Julie Wright, “but the odds of winning are at least a little believable.”

Dreaming Debtors (roughly 1 in 5 people).They pick N between 1000 and 1,000,000, often hoping for a specific and life-changing amount of money. Kevin Weatherwalks, for example, picked N = 60,000, calling it a “freeroll for a chance to cancel my student debt.”

Lovers of Big Numbers (roughly 1 in 5 people). They pick N greater than a million, effectively choosing an ordinary lottery ticket—or, in some cases, an extraordinary lottery ticket, with a payoff 1000 times higher and odds 1000 times longer. “I will play at max levels,” pledged one.

As for me? It depends on my mood. Most of the time I’m a killjoy, but every now and then, I might pick N = 1 trillion, just to hold in my hand the momentary possibility of wealth beyond imagination…

….until, with probability 99.9999999999%, it collapses down to nothingness.



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