People want a simple answer. Is this action safe? But despite Anthony Fauci bouncing responsibility for COVID-19 risk assessment to individuals, your risk can’t be boiled down to one probability.
The danger of treating COVID-19 as an astronomically rare and improbable event is that we will treat it as such and fail to prepare for the next pandemic. And there will be another pandemic.
Sometimes statistics and probability can produce unexpected or counter-intuitive results. If we’re hoping to use numbers to make good decisions, we should be wary of the traps.
We naturally overestimate the risk of rare events, like shark attacks or terrorism. But there are things you can do to think more rationally about the real risk.
Here are some all-too-common errors when it comes to interpreting statistics, and how to avoid them.
Things tend to revert back to their typical state over time, so we should be careful not to mistake that for some other trend.