Reliably Unlikely

Fellow college blogger and real-life friend David Postic recently wrote an excellent post about statistical improbability as it relates to specific lives, which got me thinking.  David pointed out how unlikely each of our lives are, and how unique the simple power of probability makes us.  What’s cool about this to me is that despite the unlikely circumstances that comprise each of our lives, we can reliably count on the fact that each of us will be improbably unique.

Here’s a clarifying analogy: the chance of drawing any four specific cards out of a 52-card deck is one in 6,497,400.  Drawing all four aces, for example, happens once every 6,497,400 tries, on average.  However, the chance of drawing some combination of four cards that you have a 1 in 6,497,400 chance of drawing is 100%.  That is, each time you draw four cards, drawing that specific combination is ridiculously unlikely, but you can be totally sure that whatever combination you draw will be nearly irreplicable.  The uniqueness of each combination is a certainty, despite the incredibly unlikely makeup of the combination.

You, I, and everyone we meet are far more unlikely than drawing four aces in a row.  But precisely because of our unlikelihood, we can be positive that each of us is unique.  Statistically, to be rare is a certainty.  And that’s pretty cool: the assurance that everybody is an anomaly.


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