Think Probabilistically

August 11, 2021

One vital skill that everyone needs to develop is the ability to think in probabilities instead of certainties, to accept that the world is uncertain, but somewhat quantifiable.

Questions like “is it safe?” or “will it work?” should be replaced by “how safe is it?” and “how likely is it to work?” This makes life so much easier to understand.

Much of the hesitancy in COVID-19 vaccinations are premised on the idea that the vax is “not safe” or “doesn’t prevent infection”, but these statements only make sense in an absolutist world. In a probabilistic world, the questions become “what are the probabilities of side effects?” and “how much does it reduce the risk of infection?” and suddenly getting vaccinated makes a whole lot more sense.

Thinking in probabilities also enables you to understand how vaccines, masks, lockdowns, social distancing, etc. are layers of protection, that combine to reduce your risk of infection to a lower and lower number.

Thinking probabilistically also saves you from regret or blame if you draw a losing card: it’s nobody’s fault but the game’s. It really is a great tool for navigating life. Focus on the improving the odds, not hoping for certainty.