Let’s multiply together a bunch of numbers which are less than one and see how small they get!
If that sounds like fun, then you’ll love this sleek new infographic (of which the above is just the teaser) posted this morning at BoingBoing. The graphic is based on this blog post by Dr. Ali Binazir, who apparently has an AB (same as a BA) from Harvard, an MD from the UC San Diego School of Medicine, and an M.Phil. from Cambridge.
I’ll save you the effort of clicking through: the good doctor estimates the probability of “your existing as you, today”. His estimate consists of (what else?) multiplying a bunch of raw probability estimates together without conditioning! And I’ll give you a hint as to the conclusion: the odds that you exist are basically zero! Astounding.
I should add that it seems he was forced to add a disclaimer that “It’s all an exercise to get you thinking…” and (obliquely) admit that the calculation is bogus at the end of the post, however.
Is there any branch of mathematics which is abused so extravagantly as probability? I think these sorts of abuses are beyond even the most egregious statistical claims, no?