Future Beacon

Statistics and Facts


J. Tyronius Gaussington IV

      A rash of stories in the news about police brutality lead us to believe that there is some terrible epidemic afoot, when these events are relatively rare, and statistically predictable given the millions of police/suspect interactions that take place.

A disproportionate amount of money is put toward breast cancer than other cancers. As terrible as it may be, this is a relatively survivable cancer. Even among women, it is dwarfed by lung and other cancers. You can survive without breasts, but not lungs. So why do people have all these fundraisers and buy pink things, while neglecting the more common, more likely, and more deadly cancers?

When my age was in the single-digits, I remember routinely riding my bike a mile or more from my home. Today this is unheard of. Mothers are terrified of strangers abducting their children. The number of abductions that take place yearly is a few hundred. In a population of 300 million, it is dozens of times more likely that a child will die in an auto accident than that they will get kidnapped, yet we don't keep kids from riding in cars.

It's not just little people like us. Governments spend trillions fighting extremism. This same amount of money could build roads and universities and elevate the lives of millions of people, instead we've only created bigger armies of more fervent zealots. Basic math tells us that creation yields better, more lasting results than destruction.

These are just a few examples, but they show that humans are comfortable believing things that are contrary to the facts and make horrible decisions as a result. I'm not sure if we've gotten where we are because of this foolishness, or in spite of it, but it seems to me that for us to progress much further beyond where we are now, we need, not just smarter people making better decisions, but an entire cultural shift toward fact-based decision-making.

I think a major challenge would come from those who profit from fact-deficient decision-making tendencies. Most notably, marketers, politicians and religions. As soon as they realized what you were up to, you'd have all of these people trying to stop you.