The Notional Lottery

On Friday evening I got an email to tell me I’d won a prize on the Euromillions lottery. My excitement was short-lived, however, as I discovered on checking my ticket that my winnings amounted to the princely sum of €5, not the jackpot of nearly €100 million.

As regular readers of this blog might know, I play the Euromillions every week. I use the same numbers each time and always stake the minimum amount (€2.50) . Some think it is strange, but I see it partly as one of those little rituals we all invent for ourselves and partly as a small price to pay for a little frisson of excitement when the numbers are drawn.

But I do sometimes wonder what on Earth I would do if I won the huge jackpot prize. I have no dependents. I don’t have a car and have no interest in getting one, especially a fancy one. I don’t need a bigger house, or a yacht, or a private jet.  Frankly, there’s nothing that I would really want to buy that I couldn’t buy already. It’s not that I have a huge salary, just that I’m not exactly very materialistic. I would of course pay of my mortgage, but that wouldn’t make much of a dent in €100 million!

Would I quit my job? Would I quit teaching? If you had asked me those questions a decade ago I would have said a firm “no” but now I’m not so sure. If I could ditch the admin stuff, I would of course do so. I still enjoy teaching and research, though. On the other hand I’m pushing sixty now, and my departure from a paid position would open up opportunities for someone younger. I might carry on in some voluntary arrangement if this were possible.

So what would I do with the money? I think what I would probably do is set up some sort of philanthropic foundation to give most of it to good causes, including the arts and sciences; the latter would include a big donation to arXiv.

One thing I wouldn’t do would be to give the money directly to universities, as any donation would be swallowed up by the central coffers and most of it would probably just be wasted on management salaries and vanity projects instead of education and research. I suppose if I set up a foundation I could give grants directly to researchers and students for specific purposes bypassing the top layer.

Anyway, all this is notional because I only won €5. Maybe next week…

3 Responses to “The Notional Lottery”

  1. What about endowing a university building with your hypothetical winnings, though? “Alexandra Elbakyan Hall” has a nice ring to it…

  2. It’s called EuroJackpot in Denmark and despite the nanoscopic odds of winning I still buy an autogenerated 4-line ticket every once in a while. I see it as the triumph of hope over reason.

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