Sunday, August 17, 2014

A world without Statistics?


A world without statistics? Can you imagine it? Probably so, because most of the PMs I run into my advanced risk management course have no knowledge of statistics beyond a coin toss.

So, along comes this article from a learned organization, entitled "A world without statistics", and I had to take a minute to breeze through it. And breeze through you can... it's actually  light reading... and no math!

We get this kind of stuff:
  • Science would be pretty much ok. Newton didn’t need statistics for his theories of gravity, motion, and light, nor did Einstein need statistics for the theory of relativity.
  • Thermodynamics and quantum mechanics are fundamentally statistical, but lots of progress could’ve been made in these areas without statistics. 
  • The A-bomb and, almost certainly, the H-bomb, maybe these would never have been invented without statistics, .....
  • Without statistics, we could forget about discovering the Hibbs boson etc, but that doesn’t seem like such a loss for humanity.
  • Without statistics, we wouldn’t have most of the papers in “Psychological Science,” but I could handle that
  • Polling. Can’t do it well without statistics. But, would a world without polling be so horrible?
  • Could governments and large businesses be managed well without statistics? I’m not sure. .... it’s not clear than any agreement on the numbers will have much to do with political action

My nickel on this? No, we need statistics to make projects work, even if we don't understand why. Start with the lowly average... can you imagine doing without the concept of an average? And, it goes on from there... Monte Carlo simulations, 3 point estimates, sampling large data... etc and so on. Statistics: yes we do!
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