151 – Statistics

To my surprise, I replied to comments in the last essay more quickly than anticipated, Here’s a surprise weekend edition, but now I wonder if it will put me behind. 😉

Click the video above for 2 minutes of background waves while reading.

I like walking on the beach. It is good for the body, mind, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

I recall my first exposure to statistics in college. For me, statistics is an interesting topic – but something that takes time to comprehend its usefulness. Statistics may not make sense in the first course, but more courses and experiences lead to understanding and usefulness – to see the light – to make sense of it.

During my college days in the 1970s, statistics classes emphasized using complex formulas to calculate results by hand in a world without calculators. That time was a world of pencil, paper, a slide rule, the occasional abacus, and constructing conclusions from the data. 

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The professor made one particular statement that stayed with me. I paraphrase. “In the not-too-distant future, computers will do all the calculations, and statistics classes will concentrate on their meaning and usefulness.”

I think about the progression of Texas Instrument calculators that arrived in the late 70s-early 80s. I recall high school students being enthusiastically proud of those calculators. Channeling my statistics professor, I encouraged those students to keep their cherished calculators forever so they could show their kids an example of archaic. 

As I look across the water, I see today’s world as a vast sea of data, including statistics. With so many available numbers, anyone can take a stance – any stance – and then find the numbers to support it because the statistics are ripe for picking.

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On the other hand, our data-rich lives cause us to straddle the line between trust and skepticism – a position requiring us to be diligent before blind acceptance.

I think about the coronavirus outbreak and the use of statistics – especially in the early days. News reports shared numbers daily, but there were times I would say, “I don’t want the cumulative number. What is the rate of change?”

I think about the state-to-state comparisons. But I ask, Are states collecting the same data? I know my home state and my beach state report data differently – so are they comparable?

I think about how vaccine effectiveness is statistical. None of the vaccines are 100% effective against getting Covid or dying from it. Even some people believing 100% effectiveness doesn’t make it so or invalidates the data. 

New technologies allow us to examine data. Probabilities, correlations, and ratios help deliver a deeper understanding. The coronavirus pandemic provided an unbelievable amount of data for analysis.

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Today, if something is measurable, it can be analyzed. An official at a basketball game calls a foul on a player. How do this referee’s numbers compare to other referees? Is this referee showing any biases against players or teams? Do any players get preferential treatment? Are teams treated differently? Do calls favor the home team over the visiting team? Yes – if something can be counted, statistical analysis deepens the understanding. This data can lead to more questions to ask about referees, players, and teams in basketball.   

I think about how fast technology changes. What about the information lost stored in previous formats? Was the data from magnetic tapes, CDs, film, paper, microfiche, and others transferred to the current system? 

Today, technology and algorithms are the double-edged swords of bringing people and information together while eroding privacy – changes making us wonder about 1984, Brave New World, and the wizard behind the curtain.

Today’s world is beyond my professor’s statement. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a data-driven tool designed to scrutinize and apply large amounts of data to establish trends that will lead to faster and better decisions. 

AI gets the most out of data. Today, we marvel at Alexia’s existence, but that is a simpler application than what AI is doing in health care, manufacturing, research, and throughout the business world.

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My statistics professor who made that statement is no longer in our midst, but I wondered if he envisioned the coming of AI. Maybe my question is not if, but when. Nonetheless, this is how far we’ve come and where society is going. I wonder: What will we see in our daily lives just 10 years from today?

Although I remain an optimist for a positive future, one can find many reasons to have a negative view of tomorrow. Time will deliver the answer – it always does because it always has. But, for this place in time – today – walking on the beach is good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

Given the deep nature of topics such as statistics, data, and analytics, I passed on providing links.

Next Post: Time v3 – Wednesday 28th September @ 1 AM (Eastern US)

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85 thoughts on “151 – Statistics”

  1. Prior to Hurricane Katrina I was teaching analytical statistics at UNO. I remember this like it was yesterday. At the end of a Tuesday night class I told them that there was a big storm in the gulf, but it was headed toward Atlanta and I’d see them next week. I never saw that class again That said, AI has become a huge buzz word everywhere. Data sifting and sorting is the basis of anything. Once AI is able to neutraly analyze the data it sorts the game is over BUT it depends on the original program . AI is affecting us all. I’ve been playing with it to make images. Spotify has been making playlists from songs created by AI, not human musicians. A casual listener cannot tell the difference.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ray,
      Oh wow … I had no clue you are a statistics guy. Awesome! “What does the data say” goes a long way for me. Then again, how was the data gathered is an important question – let alone being subject to different interpretations. I had no clue about your info regarding AI and music! Thanks for sharing!!!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Math never came easy to me, but for some reasons stats was very easy. Data matters cuts two ways as long as you actually do something with it. It’s about destroyed baseball, but it helped me greatly this summer on tour. My biggest photo rep, Getty Images, just sent us an email that said no AI created images.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I am not an expert on this, but many times people use statistics, but I’ve noted that people bring parts of them that support their view of things and believe that there should independent informations available. we in Finland are in rather good place that way, but there is so much twisted information available and given to people that you have to be really alert when reading news about everything and about statistics. I might have gone of the topic a bit, but this worries me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ritva,
      Twisted information is everywhere. As a friend of mine used to say, “Take a stance – any stance – then go find the statistics to support the claim.” Politicians are very guilty of picking statistics that support their stance. Actually, opposing parties pick statistics from the same report … and conveniently ignoring the rest of the report. Thanks for sharing!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. An excellent perspective Frank… And walking the beach and keeping our intentions focused in and on the Now Is balm for the soul..
    I smiled while reading as I left school prior the calculator age and had to do ten mental arithmetic tests before our Maths lesson started which would pose questions such as the filling of water in a bath tub, two men and so many gallon buckets etc how many buckets needed to fill the tub… Phew… so disliked Maths… LOL because of those tests… My average was usually 6 or 7 out of ten… and on a bad day 5… 😉
    I think how even shop assistants these days rely on the till to tell them how much change to give… They cant seem to add up in their heads as the calculator took that ability away..
    Which is why I stay focused in my garden these days Frank…. AI is here and if it runs unchecked Digital Currency, along with Face recognition, Travel and other things may end up with a points system of what you are allowed to do or not…
    I trust however that people are waking up to facts and figures and not all are adding up to the correct totals presented to us..
    So as you wisely say Frank..
    Time Will Tell…… and Time is ticking!…
    Many thanks and great a caught you this morning.. ❤ 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Sue,
      Good to see you here and thanks for sharing. I actually don’t worry about digital currency because I don’t own any … and actually don’t plan to!. To me, statistics is a practical application of Math – actually more applicable than the problem you mentioned about the bathtub! Enjoy the garden! 🙂

      Like

  4. Statistics are a bit of an odd one with me, Frank. I prefer the exact numbers, not estimations or averages, and if I so needed I can work out how the trend is looking now. I can’t see the point of predicting future trends, especially where the variance between the lower and upper figures can’t say whether the trend will go up or down… that’s just the same as not predicting it in the first place, which would have saved a lot of time! I have an odd mind which wanders on its own course without being given uncertain data! 😅
    AI is another uncertainty. I can see the benefits if it is used correctly, but I can sense that it will be used for not exactly the right reasons, so, like Jo, I don’t trust it.
    And like Sue says, focus on today, on right now, on breathing and walking, and statistics are just a thing in the ether and not very relevant at all!
    Good walking with you today, Frank – you’ve set a few cogs turning in my mind! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tom,
      The fact that I got the cogs in your mind moving made me smile. After all, that’s one of my goals with all readers! A major point about data as a predictor is assuming all conditions of the past data stay the same into the future … and that is a longshot – but possible – and shouldn’t be discotacted! . But as you say, one can see the trend. However, data is also about the past – and that cannot be changed. Collection methods can be questioned, and sample size is important. Much about quality control in business is about the data – what does the data say? … and then react appropropriately to do. Thanks for sharing! Thanks for sharing!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. An interesting post, Frank. You made it about much more than statistics. Statistics can be a useful tool for analyzing data, and that is important, but of course, they are can be shifted and slanted, as you point out. Usually when I see lots of numbers, I stop reading. 🤣 But I did have statistics in grad school. My husband taught AP statistics.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Merril,
      Statistics is a big topic and very much part of life – probably much more than we realize. As one who enjoys the broad view, incoporating it into this topic stimulates thinking and is much more interesting that calculations. Then again, I’m with you about getting too many numbers – well, unless I want the numbers.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I remember using statistics to figure out the point of diminishing utility on production equipment. I wasn’t exceptional in statistics in college but the practical application of what I managed to learn was an eye opener. The Producer was in market research so to her statistics is a second language. Good post , Frank.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. John,
      You used an important term … “practical application” … that is the key … Not doing anything with the data means the data is worthless – so why was it collected. Then again, your wife knew the importance. A data guru that I know said his spouse says data is his love language. Thanks for sharing a practical example!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I no longer trust numbers. As you point out, too often they compare apples to oranges, rather than giving you a useful number that actually tells you something.

    My daughters love it when they search for something a bit different online and mess up the profile the algorithm has of them. Me? I don’t even “see” ads or suggestions. (K)

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I worked for a researcher who when he didn’t like the result would “massage” the data to get the result he wanted. It is no wonder he fell from grace. My current employer lets the computer churn and spit out the results and accepts that they are accurate – more so than when her desperate to succeed grad students “crunch the numbers”…

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Stats…on the weekend? That’s just cruel. When I was in college, statistics were the most dreaded class I had to take for my major. It was a tough slog but I somehow managed to get through it surprisingly well though it was not enjoyable one bit. Now, the only stats I enjoy are sports stats, specifically hockey. 🏒🥅

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Frank, because I’m a big sports fan and so much of the talk these days is about analytics, I have been overwhelmed by all the additional statistics that have become available. I do think sometimes one can suffer from paralysis by analysis (in sports or otherwise) where you get so deep into the numbers you forget to think about what you sense is going on, what your gut is telling you. I also have seen a lot of situations where you can take a set of statistics and have two people each make their point by using the same data set, even if their points are opposite of each other. While there is no doubt the collection of data and statistics can always help us decide what is happening, what should be addressed, etc. at the end of the day people also have to step back and consider the data in conjunction with what they are seeing, what they feel is the current condition the data has been captured for. Now I have to go see the data regarding my fantasy football teams!🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Bruce,
      Stats in sports is off the charts. So many ratios … especially in baseball. I understand the idea of analytics in baseball. It’s a good example of using numbers to make decisions. Managers still get a hunch and have to make a decision. Great point about using the same data set to make different points. Politicians do that far too frequently. As a friend once told me, take a stance then go find the data to support it because it is out there! Meanwhile, how about those Eagles!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Frank, we Eagles fans could not be more pleased. I think it was important to stay restrained in going with the “Super Bowl talk” until we saw how they came off a big Monday Night win and were now playing against Carson Wentz in the revenge game. They exceeded my expectations Sunday and yes, barring injuries we could have a Super Bowl-worthy team. I am also hopeful for the Bengals not only because I like them, but I have a bunch of Bengals on my fantasy teams. I can’t wait to see those Cincy helmets in action on Thursday Night Football.

        Like

  11. Hell o Fra nk.
    This is an Ai of Resa. My name is Aleresa.
    Statistics show, she can. not be here because she is busy deciding what dress to ware.
    There is something about wine. I am learning to sel ect. I am not abl e to taste.
    Rip off!
    CLINK!

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Hello Frank, I’m not sure how much value and trust I have in Stats. Using statistics to predict the future can be dangerous as the future is clouded, we don’t know if some cataclysmic event may happen which would mess up the numbers and in turn the predictions. I’d just use stats as a loose indicator of the most likely outcome (based on what we do know of course)
    But the problem for me is that Statistical Analysis is based on Mathematics and we all know the statistic about people doing maths…..there are 49% that can do math and 52% that can’t!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tyeth,
      Good points about using statistics for the future. All the numbers can do is make a projection based on the current trend and other conditions. Keep in mind that the numbers are based on actual occurrences. This is what was, so what adjustments does one have to do improve future output. Still, easier said than done. 🙂 Thanks for sharing.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Statistics kind of scare me…a lot! Not so for hubby, though…he used them a lot in his work, and now he uses them for other stuff…I just let him have at it, because I am so not into number things…math and its relatives were always my down fall when it came to my report cards. LOL!
    I do not trust AI either…it has many good uses, but I feel it may be abused by those who wish to control the lives of others.
    Anyways, for me, I just like to live in the here and now…I leave the future and all the predictions behind, for the providences sent to us by God.

    (Having said all that I am in the statistics of the medical world, as I am in a clinical study of the cancer I had and an experimental drug I took…and also with the covid vaccines, when I at regular intervals fill out the questionnaires the CDC sends me.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ingrid,
      I know you work in the medical care word and we both know that involves tracking a lot of numbers. Spotting trends is important. I also think the medical field is a great place to see “this is what the numbers show for the past, now what can we do in the future to improve the situation? Then, will the numbers back that up.” Interesting how some people gravitate toward numbers and other avoid them. Thanks for sharing.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. It always amazes me when they come up with statistics about every aspect of this world and what goes on in our lives. Do I believe in statists? Not really. But if others want to use their time compiling statistics I guess that is fine.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Peggy,
      Keep this in mind that statistics are just made up. Every time you use your credit card, make a phone call, use an app on the phone, search on the internet, watch a TV show, go to the doctor, and more …. that’s data being collected. So each of provide more data about our life than we realize … and that data goes through statistical analysis. Thanks for sharing.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. What are the odds that I would be looking at a box I found that contained my college calculator at the same time you’re writing about calculators?! I have a collection of them that I didn’t realize I had accumulated over the years. It’s kind of fun to see what people are selling them for on eBay.

    I’m with you on the stats from the pandemic. The lyrics to the song Garden of Allah by Don Henley comes to mind. “Because there are no facts, there is no truth. Just data to be manipulated”

    I enjoyed your post, Frank – I hope you have a great week!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Shelley,
      Now that’s funny! (about your calculators). Interesting how much they changed over time. I still remember in college when a friend bought a desktop calculator. (He was an accounting major) … and the price was over $100 back then!!!! …. and all it did was the 4 major arithmetic functions.

      It took me a long time to realize that states were tracking their numbers differently. I didn’t have a problem with it because each state can decide what and how they want to track. I live in a tri-state area, and because I always heard data from 3 different states, it never occurred to me that they could be doing something different. And if so – would they be comparable? Thanks for walking along.

      Like

      1. Hi Frank – glad to bring a smile to your face. It’s amazing how we needed those $100 items to get through school and now you can do everything online or on our phones when it comes to calculations. I still carry a little tip card so I can discreetly get the amount to tip and not grab my phone to do so.

        I think every county was counting differently in our state. Sigh. Will we ever know the real numbers? 🤷🏻‍♀️

        Thanks for the warm welcome to join you on your walk!

        Like

  16. Interesting topic, Frank (and I hope it doesn’t put you too far behind!) I didn’t have to take statistics in college — I was concentrating more on Arts and Letters — but I suspect I’d have found it interesting. Gathering data and interpreting it is a valuable enterprise.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Debbie,
      Today, more than ever, life is rich with data – so it’s a statistician’s Disney World! Data collection and data analysis are more important than ever. I like to say that if one is not going to use the data, why gather it? Then again, if a person in a position doesn’t use it, why are they in that position? Nonetheless, statistics is an interesting study – but it takes time to soak in! Meanwhile, I’m trying to catch up before the next post!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Ingrid,
      Good news … I frequently check my Spam folders because one never knows what the WP gnomes do. After all, they are sneaky! I have no idea why, but you are the only person I’ve ever encountered that I have to “approve” the comment each and every time. I guess that just shows how special you really are!

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Clever topic and I kept my Texas Instrument calculator for a long time – paid a lot for it in east 1990s and was glad to see it go
    You are right – tech changes so fast
    Also – stats collected can vary and it can lead to confusing suggestions

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yvette,
      Confusion indeed. To me, data collection, analysis, interpretation, and application are separate but very related entities. For example, there are many examples of politicians misusing data, but I will leave it at that. Meanwhile, I know I had a TI calculator sometime in my life – probably during my Masters studies …. but I don’t think it’s around now!

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Statistics – One of those things that rumbles in the background and you drag around to the forefront from time to time just to see if you’re right or wrong about something you have read or been told, etc. Yes I know that’s simplification to the max but I absolutely HATED Math in school. An example of stats I HATE to hear/see are those related to politics. We are inundated with stats and I know people who cling to them like a life raft to support their feelings. At my age I’m more of a “show me the proof” type rather than a “give me the numbers” kind of gal. This was a VERY interesting subject for a walk though Frank……really!

    Pam

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Pam,
      You brought up some good points that center around skepticism about statistics. To some degree, the numbers are the proof. Well, assuming they were properly collected and analyzed. Politician using numbers makes me laugh because they are great cherry pickers. Both parties can site numbers from the same report and listeners think there were 2 different studies/reports. Odds are good that both are not in line with the report’s conclusion. I still recall hearing a president speak in person – a campaign speech. “More Americans are working than ever.” (and the crowd goes wild) ….but I said to other, “But there are more people than ever.” The president didn’t lie, he simply used the statistic to his advantage. Oh well …. thanks for chiming in.

      Like

  19. For almost 2 years I was a statistician at my office. Fancy title for simply being the person on the ground that inputted the information. But I also had to gather that information. I had to determine what I was looking at and interpret it to be submitted as a statistic. I worked in a police department. I was aware that there was a disconnect from what I saw as people and criminal activities to the numbers that tell the world what is happening. The numbers were collected for the department, the city, the country and helped the powers that be to determine where the resources should be spent. I had a responsibility. And I never wanted to forget the human element that those numbers reflected. Sorry I took so long to reply. I’m working between two different devices and this just slipped through the cracks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Pam,
      Oh my my …. another person who worked in the statistical world. Keeping track of data would seem to be easy, but then enters personal preferences, image, and whatever else gets in the way of truth. Thanks for sharing … and thanks for dropping by. After all, falling through the cracks is easy to do. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  20. In my “previous life” I was a bit of a statistics nerd. I learned a valuable lesson when writing reports. Statistics can be, and often are manipulated by the way they are gathered and reported. It was my job to try to keep “the team” on track and honest. LOL! It was good lesson to learn, however, as daily we are exposed to polls, reports, and statistically driven predictions. I think statistics in the hand of a critical thinker can be fascinating. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I enjoyed qualitative statistical analysis, and was quite efficient with my work. I think it’s interesting that I don’t think my boss and team mates really knew that I’m not strong in math! But I learned how to “read” trends and work with data well. Talking about this with you makes me realize that I do kind of miss my work. I hadn’t totally realized how much. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  21. Man, have we ever learned how statistics can be manipulated for the good and the very much not good. It has happened in keeping with the rapid advancement of information dissemination and so everyone can take their individualized interpretations and reconfigure it to fit their opinion.

    All that to say the machines are going to rule one day LOL

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Speaking of statistics, did you know that over the last- I wanna say 118 chances- a team has only overcome being outgained by more than 275 yards TWICE in winning the game. And did you further know the Dolphins were the team that pulled off the improbably dub in both instances? Against the Rams a couple years ago and against the Bills on Sunday.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Awesome. A good example of something that drives me crazy. Writers and analysts love to give the keys of the game. They never include this and it should always be first and foremost – Score more points. A team can lose many statistical battles, but win the game if they score more points.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. YES.

            The Bills completely dominated Miami but after the first drive, they stalled at money time over and over again. The Bills need to get a running game that doesn’t include their QB or some team is going to make them pay in January.

            Liked by 1 person

  22. I’m late to this post, Frank. If you’ve been collecting data on when I show up and what’s going on at my place, you might have predicted this. Or not. I’m not sure there’s a correlation. I am glad I came. As we start thinking about AI, I hope we realize that AI applications didn’t teach themselves how to analyze the data they study. Most AI starts with a base set of data and assumptions programmed by humans, and in some cases, that background carries the biases, errors and oversights of the humans who set the analysis in motion.

    Your professor may have been more prescient that we realize. The more computers do for us, the more we have to think about what they did.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dan.
      Given your background, I’m glad you circled back to this post. There so much data collection in our lives – and much of it we don’t even realize.

      Thank you for your input about AI. I imagine it is something people don’t fully realize – and I like how you approached it from a starting point.

      Yes – my professor hit the nail on the head. His comment stuck with me – which led to this essay. Thanks for sharing!

      Liked by 1 person

  23. One of your best Frank .. no surprise here with your background. So many great parallels and I have to agree here … Let’s keep our feet in the sand not our heads and keep loving the moments life brings.

    BTW i commented on your last post. sometimes I haven’t been getting responses in my feed. Hope you got it. 💞

    “Although I remain an optimist for a positive future, one can find many reasons to have a negative view of tomorrow. Time will deliver the answer – it always does because it always has. But, for this place in time – today – walking on the beach is good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

    Great song❣️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Cindy,
      Glad you enjoyed this walk and thanks for the kind words. I imagine when some saw the topic, they either winced or at least wondered, but my thoughts actually started with my professor. For whatever reason, his comment has stuck with me for many years. Thanks for sharing your favorite passage, which I always appreciate! The Piano Guys are winners for me – so when I’m stuck, I can count on them! FYI: I regularly monitor my Spam folder – and I can say I haven’t found you there.

      Liked by 1 person

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