Statistics and the Human Limitation

[Sec2 Maths onwards - Probability]


Kept you waiting, huh? You might have heard a lot of hub-bub about fake news going about. Things like 'This Facebook post is [sus]', or 'How do we still have people believing in fake news and doing stupid things that get them in trouble?' perhaps.


Sad to say, there's a rather grim story behind it.





The thing with it is, he's not entirely mistaken to dismiss all forms of statistics with mistrust, especially when the statistics involve you and something you like very much. Imagine if, say, statistics showed that people going to movies were 6,100% more likely to contract Covid-19 due to the limited anti-contamination measures. The theater is so big, and you can't expect them to spray every square area of the air with disinfectants, even if you expect them to spray the seats and walkways.


If this statistical data were to prove true, and people going to movie theaters are 61 times more likely to be infected by Covid-19 due to the feature of the enclosed space, doesn't that represent a heavy risk in your ability to enjoy movies with your friends in the future?


That was the problem Darrell Huff, a habitual smoker, experienced when the research on smoking & cigarettes was presented. He felt like his very lifestyle was under attack, and chose to use the negative side of statistics in building his argument. Yet, we must continue to revise and refine our understanding of statistics without landing into this pitfall. If someone only ever saw the bad things you've done, and ignored your good side, you would feel pain as well.


Darrell Huff chose to close the possibility of statistics helping people, focusing only on the parts where he's been lied to and hurt. (he's super salty about getting dissed.) That in itself does not solve the problem, only exacerbate it - He made the choice not to trust in the proof brought by statistics, and much like the people who lied to him, he chose to follow them and lie. He has already lost, surrendered himself to believing that people can only lie with statistics, and with him being a person he can surely do the same.


Would you want to become a person like that? I don't think you'd want to. Sadly, nothing I say can guarantee that you're immune from this. You might find yourself growing up to become someone like him, when what you want to believe in rots away.


But I can say this: Know, that failure is only part of the learning process. You fail people, people fail you and your expectations of them, lawyers and doctors might fail at being decent parents. Everyone fails at some point in their lives. But that's fine - Failure is only part of the learning process. It will continue to occur until the afflicted person has learned their lesson.



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