Statistics Never Lie (Almost)

Disclaimer – Mathematics is the most beautiful thing in this universe.

The original title of this post was intended to be ‘Maths Never Lies (Almost)’ but it wouldn’t have justified the ‘almost’ part because it truly never lies. In fact, it’s my unwritten rule that says – When in doubt, trust maths. Rest are unnecessary distractions.

Writing ‘Statistics’ is a scapegoat for any fallacy I might unintentionally incorporate in this post.

Let’s start with a little introduction –

My brain is always calculating. When confronted with a situation, I search for the underlying numbers dictating it and perform numerical operations whose output is, in turn, converted into the action I need to take. For example, if I see 15 minutes on the clock to get ready before my scheduled departure to some pre-determined destination and if by some chance of almighty probability that I’m still in bed, I would calculate all of my chores down to the precise second, sparing, of course, the sleep because all goes down the drain when the heavenly bed takes you in her cozy lap. Calculations are so deeply ingrained in my system that even if I consciously start thinking of each moment when I have used Maths to determine my action, I would still not be covering everything, so you know how serious this is.

Anyway, so after a month of joining my current research work, I was given the computational task that set me up as a mechanical machine. I had to do just the task delegated to me in a certain pre-programmed way. Not a deviation was needed. And hence I fell into a routine. I was not entirely left on my own whims though. There were deadlines, consistent deadlines and I had to deliver every time without a miss. And so my calculative brain fired up every time I was given a batch to work on. Sometimes I would complete early and sometimes I would take more than what I had expected. But the arithmetic is just one part of the equation.

Statistics is what we tend to when we want to predict something based on the previous behaviour. But beware, extrapolation is speculation. Before we move further, let me ask you a simple question – how many times have you sped a YouTube at 1.5x or 2x considering it would get over by the time you have to shut the tab and leave but the math clearly shows it would not?

You see, we are constantly tricking our minds. We are giving ourselves false assurance despite the data not being on our side. But is it completely wrong to do so? Doesn’t the result fall in our favor with slight tweaks on the way? What changes then? The discrepancy lies in quantifying the qualitative aspects of our lives. As much as it is about the sanctity of the task, the state of execution is equally crucial to its completion and that’s what statistics fail to accommodate. It is relatively easy to model a crowd than to predict an individual’s action. When it comes to human behavior, the dynamics is much more complicated and this realization dominated most of my 2019.

Take this blog for example. What used to be among my top priorities took a back seat in these past few months. Not that I was not writing but to produce something worthy of posting here took much of my already scarce mental resources. Knowingly or unknowingly, I have been maintaining one post per month on average from mid-2018. Most of those were posted on the last date of the month when I couldn’t give any excuses to myself to delay it further – that is the benefit of putting a hard deadline for yourself. No matter how many ideas I came up with, I could only materialize one post up to the level of my satisfaction.

Extrapolating the trend, this frequency was likely to continue throughout 2019 but in the latter half, this momentum dwindled. In the last few months, I didn’t post at all. It was the hardest in the first month when I saw my streak break but I felt so helpless. Not that I was not writing. I wrote even more than before in my personal notes. There has been an unprecedented change in my life that needed most of my attention. I also kept pondering as to how I would accommodate this change into my writing on this blog. Hopefully, it will unfurl to my convenient level of disclosure in the months to come.

My YouTube video frequency suffered a similar fate but in reverse order. The momentum I had gained in 2018 was likely to push me to produce even more right from the very beginning but that was not the case. I kept on shooting footage but couldn’t bring myself to edit it. There was always one thing or the other that kept me occupied. I somehow posted 4 videos on my personal channel, that too towards the end of the year. Ironically, I did a film-making internship as a post-production intern and so for at least for a couple of months, sitting on the editing desk was my actual job. What made me so reluctant?

Coming to Goodreads, by the time December rolled in, I was still lagging behind by four books to accomplish my modest goal of 20 books. In order to barely make the mark, I had to carefully choose those which I could finish within the timeline (read short ones), so I kind of cheated that way. Statistics would have indicated that I would likely to continue longer books (300+ pages) but once again I took the command in my hands and led myself to a subpar performance just to get a decorating banner on my profile.


…To be continued