How not to get duped by coincidences

 作者:糜狈故     |      日期:2019-02-28 01:02:01
By Gilead Amit IMAGINE you receive an envelope addressed in an unfamiliar hand. Enclosed are predictions for this weekend’s football matches and an offer to invest in the sender’s foolproof betting syndicate. What tosh, you think, shoving it in the recycling bin. But come the weekend, you notice that those tips turned out to be correct. And then comes the really strange bit. The next week, an identical letter arrives with predictions for that weekend’s games – and they turn out to be accurate too. At this point, you send off your cash, convinced that whoever this person is possesses some genuine insight. (Either that, or you go to the police to report that you’ve uncovered the biggest match-fixing scandal yet.) Or if you’re familiar with the law of large numbers, you might be tempted to bide your time. This law, a facet of the perennially bamboozling subject of probability, states that, given a large enough sample size, any outrageously improbable thing is eventually bound to occur. If our sly soothsayer simply sent letters systematically to enough different people, each with a different set of scores, then at least one recipient is likely to get accurate predictions enough times in a row to make them bite. And even if just a few people hand over their money, it probably makes the scam worthwhile. “Given a large enough sample, any improbable thing is eventually bound to occur” This sort of trick works so well because the existence of these hundreds of disappointed punters never occurs to us. “It’s very difficult to count all the times something could have happened and didn’t,