The Gerontocracy of the Favored has ruled essentially the entirety of the Known World for countless generations.

The Old Favored might be men, might be machines, or some strange combination thereof. It is unclear, and none can venture into their High Towers and ascend their Yelevators to their shining homes in the Low Heavens.

The Voices and the Will of the Old carry out the Gerontocrats' justice among the common folk, and while the pious and superstitious lot call them Angels, the wise among us remember these to be soulless Messenger machines.

Having carved out a niche for myself in the Badlands far from their towers, I have now delved into the histories and tasked wise men to study the mysteries of Physik, in the hopes of finding a plausible path by which the Art of the Favored works. So that I myself can ascend to their ranks, or otherwise bring out my strength against them in their discovered weakness and thus overthrow them and cast them down once and for all.

It is unclear whether there really is such a thing as Luck, independent of human observers, so it might be that is not luck, but the flickering realm of Quantum possibilities that this technology impacts. Regardless, it is generally agreed that the Old Favored derive their power and health from making each of their subjects marginally more unlucky and less healthy.

I welcome ideas for building a more robust backstory to Luck Mining. How would such technology work? The way I'm thinking about it currently would be somewhat akin to the Improbability Drive of Hitchhiker fame and, more to the point, to the system broadly described here.

  • $\begingroup$ The theme of luck in a magical world is explored in Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time books. Some characters are Ta'veren - they have luck (Matt Cauthon) or they alter other peoples luck (Rand al'Thor). There is much speculation both within the story and amongst fans about how this luck works and where it comes from. The Wheel of Time Wiki is a great source. wot.wikia.com/wiki/A_beginning. I'm sure fans would be only too willing to discuss. Also there is interest in WoT on the Science Fiction and Fantasy SE. $\endgroup$ Jul 24, 2015 at 1:21

8 Answers 8


From the clues in the backstory, it seems the Gerontocracy of the Favored is based on some sort of technological version of magic, altering probability.

This would be very difficult to explain without a lot of handwavium (hands moving at almost c), and also depends a bit on which version of the quantum universe you believe in.

In the "Many Worlds" interpretation, every event is played out, so in "otherwhen" a version of you is not drinking the warm drink you have in your hand right now (or alternatively, you don't have the drink, but one of the infinite number of your counterparts in otherwhen does...). In other words, for every decision you make or don't make, every possible outcome happens. The Gerontocracy of the Favored have therefore discovered a way to manipulate or otherwise access the "many worlds" and direct themselves along the pathways that mostly favour themselves. This will be difficult even with Clarke tech level magic, since not only do you have to anticipate and determine future outcomes for an almost infinite number of possibilities, but you have to do so in such a way that the average outcome is more favourable to a group of individuals, which is exponentially more difficult.

If manipulating quantum reality is a bit too much (this would be pretty much a post singularity landscape, and your hero would be wandering around essentially as an extra in someone else's dream), then you could simplify things a bit by postulating a cluster of AI's which could take input from a vast number of sensors and using game theory, probability tables and other statistical methods, advise the Gerontocracy of the Favored of what paths lead to the best possible outcomes. Once again, this runs into the problem of averaging out the outcomes over a group; outcome A may favour me over you, outcome B may favourite you over me but outcome C, while not optimum for either of us, is better than other outcomes for both of us. This is a variation of some forms of game theory.

The problem with either form of "magic" is twofold.

The fundamental problem is known as the "Local Knowledge Problem", and was postulated by economist F.A. Hayek. Hayek observed that information is subtle and diffused in any system (this applies to markets, climate, ecosystems or other complex, adaptive systems) and local actors can observe and act upon this information far faster than any centralized system. By the time the information makes it up the chain, is observed, a decision made and the order to action given and passed down the chain, the conditions will have changed (either a little or a lot), leading to cumulative errors building up in a positive feedback loop. This is why market economies with local actors with free agency will always outperform centralized command economies. Your Gerontocracy of the Favored might actually be a craptacular USSR written on a global scale, and while the Gerontocracy is better off than the ordinary people (much like the Soviet era Nomenklatura), compared to us from the far distant past they are not well off at all.

The second and probably more immediate issue lies in game theory. So long as the Gerontocracy of the Favored can hang together with common goals and are willing to accept individually sub optimal outcomes to preserve their overall ranking, they can be ahead of the others. Human nature (and possibly post human nature) being what it is, the various members making up the Gerontocracy of the Favored will probably end up seeking ways to optimize their own individual outcomes, leading to covert and even overt efforts to oust other members and seize resources for their own use. By the time your story starts, there may be only one member of the Gerontocracy of the Favored left "standing" as it were; the sole and absolute ruler of Earth.

As Dirty Harry would say in these circumstances: "Do you feel lucky?"

  • $\begingroup$ ..."technological version of magic, altering probability." ... or at least that's what they want us to believe. I'm personally more inclined toward the latter parts of your answer, since the type of post-singularitarian society required for such feats would have likely transcended or spread out, unless both are fiendish problems... $\endgroup$ Jun 30, 2015 at 1:13

I recall several stories that employ relevant concepts.

Greg Egan has a novel in which a butterfly evolves future-feedback physics and then evolves rapidly without trial and error, always getting just the right solution.

James P Hogan has a novel where a planet has flowers that impart a sense of what's the right decision for long-term benefit.

I recall a short story in a magazine in which a decice is invented that is worn as a pendant around the neck, and feels ahead into the future to the organism's lifespan, and signals with a shock to the neck that something bad will happen. It worked to avoid a car crash, and a vague signal with no explaination was explored by making different plans until the signal abated (it was a house fire). It had some tech explaination in the text, not just a magic amulet.

A other Egan novel had a way to supress the wave collapse and allow multiple histories to exist, and it could be used to get the right random/lucky outcome. You ought to read Quaranteen for these ideas on harnessing the many worlds.

Another idea is that a network of nanobot sensors etc. and high powered computers can compute through chaos and, e.g. make a hurricane by getting the right butterfly to flap its wings on cue. Seeing the future more directly would amont to the same thing.

  • $\begingroup$ I think shocking drivers in the neck would cause a lot more accidents than it prevents... $\endgroup$
    – evankh
    Jun 30, 2015 at 3:01
  • $\begingroup$ It's just a tingle, barely noticable but enough to convey danger in an intuative manner even if you don't consciously pay attention to them. $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Jun 30, 2015 at 4:39
  • $\begingroup$ @knave - Visit the following site for this idea taken to its ultimate conclusion. althouse.blogspot.co.uk/2006/12/… $\endgroup$ Jul 24, 2015 at 0:53

The problem with 'Luck' is that it is a human concept applied to the quantum workings of the universe, which itself does not care if one macroscopic system is favoured by the vagaries of chance while another is harmed by the vagaries of chance, or is also favoured, or has no net benefit or loss from its point of view.

Put more simply: Our universe simply doesn't care how many people get lucky or unlucky.

This leaves us with two possibilities:

  1. The universe described in the question is different to our own, and is quite probably (though not definitely) an anthropically-oriented simulation, (possibly matrix-like in which sentient beings are beings out-of-universe who are plugged into the simulation, though it does not necessarily follow that they must be plug-ins, and are not entirely simulated themselves), in which subjective luck is a limited resource,


  1. The creators of the technology that 'transfers' 'luck' (i.e. net benefit or harm to living beings) deliberately included an unnecessary component that negatively affects non-target beings at the same time as it positively affects target beings, according to the net gain or loss inferred on targets and non-targets, based on the subjective appraisal of said gain/loss by all beings within its area of effect.

In the case of option 1, this could be an experiment on the effects of an anthropically-oriented universe as opposed to our impersonal universe.

In the case of option 2, the creators of the luck transference technology/magic must either had the mistaken assumption that luck is a universally-limited resource rather than mere localised quantum variations that could be influenced without affecting other localities, or they must have - with malice aforethought - set out to ensure that the device they created had no net subjective benefit or harm to the beings in its area of influence.

The reason for this may be simple malice, or there may be a more subtle, probably legally-oriented reason. For example: the government in the time and place that the device(s) was(were) created may have had some arcane legal requirement that equated imposition of health benefits with financial gain, and that in order to avoid that government's tax laws that would have seen the device's owners taxed according to the net benefit it bestowed, chose to have it impose no net benefit, by causing low-level harm to a large number of non-targets commensurate with the benefit gained by the low numbers of target individuals.

As to how it works - that depends on the two cases above.

In Case 1, the simulation/different universe: The luckiness or unluckiness of an individual is determined by the generation of a random number in the simulation engine. Luck transference to an individual or group may occur by having a subroutine pick better values out of a buffer of truly random data that is otherwise streamed sequentially as randomness is required, leaving the less-lucky values for everyone else.

In Case 2, our own universe or a reasonable facsimile: The world may be seeded with nanites that are able to change living beings and influence otherwise random outcomes for better or worse relative to the living beings between them. Due to the requirement that the entire system confer no net gain or loss as subjectively assessed by those living beings, they would be networked, forming a distributed intelligence, reading peoples' minds and imposing 'luckiness' or 'unluckiness' according to their/its target criteria, the entire system designed to produce no net gain or loss except over short, non-reportable periods.

How? The nanites might read an individual's intent, and assess the likelihood that the actions they were performing would lead to a subjectively positive or negative outcome, and if necessary alter those actions by something as simple as adding or subtracting a few nerve impulses here and there so that an individual's actions were unexpectedly successful or otherwise, or someone had (or didn't have) a particular worthwhile thought or idea, or they might correct or create a genetic or immunological deficiency that would lead to cancer or disease immunity.

Either way, luck transference can probably be put down to someone quite a while ago making the informed decision to make a lot of people's lives more miserable than necessary.


Here are some ideas, in ascending order of technomagic:

Working the Mines of the Favored
The Old Machines hate gravity enough to choose to live in LEO (Low Earth Orbit), yet the Earth is one of the main supply sources for Uranium and Thorium (fusion has sadly remained uneconomical, at least at the vision-sensor-gouging rates the masters of the Gas Giants have been charging the past few millenia). So the Earth is an open mining pit for radioactive nucleides, with all the radiation sickness that implies.

Keeping Prols for Spare Parts
The Earth-bound population consists of genetic clones of the Master copies in orbit and are treated in much the same way people today interact with a supply closet, with the occasional 'angelic' grabbing claw dragging an unfortunate (and relatively healthy) victim to their sad fate, leaving behind an occasionally renewed population of mostly defectives and rejects.

Reality Engineering
The technology of the favored includes limited prescience regarding their subjects (possibly due to detailed quantum simulations of reality ran by Oracles in LEO) allowing their robotic servant unprecedented control over the most intimate and relevant details of the lives of their subjects, which enables the favored to intervene at critical juncture points to prevent credible opposition within their rule-domain to even become a possibility.

  • $\begingroup$ That doesn't answer the question: how does Luck Mining work? $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Jun 30, 2015 at 2:15

Well, I'm think the answer is in your question.
Since "Angels" was known as soulless Messenger machines we can asume the global information network. And it is known "information is power". It's not pointed to favored have individual high luck, so I'm guess it's a question of priority, e.g. One man developed a prototype of some great new device. As soon as he's not the only one who know about device the information leaked to the Favored. Now it's nothing but a deal of sequence of coinsedences. Man should deliver the prototype to some company, while on the way, lost his key from home (no one saw a boy who stoled it), was hitted by the car (no one hurt but prototype was destroyed), and the meeting was canceled (company got bad news from market). When returned home, Man see it in fire. Bad luck, bad luck.
Now, how it was from the point of view of Favored:

New information aquired about some new device.  
New information acquired about the meeting.  
New project started.  
Possible route of target builded.  
New task for local thieves sent.  
Target progress on route - 10%. Deviation - 0,1%  
New report from agent (Thief): Task completed.  
Deviation process on market stocks started.  
Road traffic simulation started.  
Road traffic simulation finished.  
Spam message sent to <"car driver">  
Target progress on route - 70%. Deviation - 5,4%
Target and <"car driver"> encounter - in progress  
Target and <"car driver"> encounter - complete  
Protype destroyed.  
New report from agent (Special): Documents received. Fire accident in progress.  
Target company market status: unstable.
Deviation process on market stocks finished.  
All project tasks completed.
Project completed.  
New research iniciated.  

At the end Favored got new technology. Good luck for them. So, it's not the question of Luck Mining, but Information Mining.


Using some handwaves, you could do this with advanced probability computing.

For instance, if one of the immutable laws of the universe is that there is a finite amount of "Luck" available at any time, and that "luck" can be altered by doing the math, then you have luck "mining" by simply having that technology only available to the elite. Additional immutable laws could come into play by having luck attract luck (and vice versa) so that the lucky get luckier and the unlucky get unluckier.

For example, you have two people playing roulette - one of the technocrats and one of the proles. Our prole has no access to this probability calculating technology, wheras our technocrat does. Our technocrat can use his computing advantage to calculate what numbers to play based on every single variable - from the way the roulette operator rolls the ball to the temperature of the room. this gives him a significant advantage. The laws of the universe as handwaved above would then increase this advantage for each prior "lucky" moment.

Combine this with the huge advantage of information such connectivity could bring and you have a powerful "lucky", well informed elite and an unlucky lower class with an information disadvantage.

  • $\begingroup$ So the penguins of Madagascar? $\endgroup$ Jul 7, 2015 at 18:54

Just to throw in the mundane answer:

"The more I practice, the luckier I get"

Luck is a concept which measures what has already happened rather than what causes it to happen - i.e. you were lucky because something good happened by chance, not something good happened because you were lucky.

So that being said, the only way to "increase" your luck, really, is to increase the probability of something favourable happening. And this is usually done through hard work, experience, practice, research, networking, superior or insider knowledge, etc.

e.g. you're likely to win a bet on a boxing match if you happen to know one of the fighters went on an all-night drinking session the night before and hurt his wrist, than you are by pure guesswork. Those people who are always in the right place at the right time when an opportunity presents itself? Quite often this is because they've gotten their name out there, made friends, done favours for others, put themselves in the minds of the people presenting the opportunity, etc.

So those "angels" who appear to have superior luck? They actually have superior knowledge, social skills, mastery of elements that appear to be chance (e.g. they have advanced long-term weather-forecasting and farming techniques so their crops always thrive)- but they don't reveal these skills, and make it appear like pure luck.


Try to get out this dimension by meditation, then you will be multidimensional being, as that you can know and do whatever you wish in multidimensional universe or multiverse. Then you can see all possible life's and achieve your goal. Easy :)

Mathematically, you will be live unlimited parallel lives with different outcome or end.

But you will know all that in this one presence, so like there can be only one, who is wake is like who is live others are like sleepers. Can't achieve what you wish to do.

Sentence Jhvh Jehovah men's that brate mudri.


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