Statistics

Humans detect stimuli and store the information as memory. It is first stored in the mental plane and, if there’s enough information, we can detect trends and determine causality. Statistics gives us the means to record data which allows us to detect trends and causality over a significantly larger amount of information than our mental plane can hold.

If your job is to count the number of people in red shirts entering a stadium over multiple nights, you probably won’t remember all of the totals from every night unless you write it down. The writing of that data cements the information and gives you access to it later. Even years later, you can look back on how many people wore red on a specific night.

Statistics gives us the ability to look at data collected over large amounts of time. You have the ability to collect and analyze data over the course of your day to several years, but our time is inherently limited. Statistics allows us to cement that information to be used at any time in the near or distant future, as long as the information survives.

Using cemented information from generations of humans who came before us allows us to see patterns and trends that occur too gradually for us to see at the time. For example, we can easily see the path of the sun as it moves across the sky over the course of a day. It’s much more difficult to see the changing path over the course of a year since we become habituated to the small changes.

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Composite picture taken at the same time every day over a year

Statistics is the proof of science. Science, of course, is determining the causality of a trend using nothing but observational evidence. Statistics is the recording of that evidence. It’s also crept into every other facet of society because we’re always trying to record what we did before so we can improve the next time.

We might record the crop yield over several years to determine the best time frame to rotate the crops for most efficient harvest. We might use the polling numbers over the last few years when determining which issues should be part of a political campaign. We have a ridiculous amount of data of where to take the best shots in basketball and where to expect the rebounds from a missed shot. We use viewer ratings to determine which characters of new TV shows to explore further. Statistics peeks its head into everything as we get smarter and try to always be better than before.

Knowing the specific, statistical history of something allows us to zoom out and see trends that we wouldn’t be able to see from our original perspective. We have to thank those people who came before: the statisticians and historians who first recorded the data to be used later. The reason those people recorded the data was to give future generations access to it. When we use that information to make the best decisions, we are satisfying the last wishes of those recorders. While the recorders might not live to see the application of their information, they know that they stand on the shoulders of those who came before and those who come after will stand upon their shoulders.ebe68d_c11fed7f01f84c5e96047a36b20375cdmv2

When we use the data from those who came before us, we are satisfying their hopes that the information might mean something more. When we refuse to use data because it goes against our beliefs, we are insulting those who came before. Sometimes we refuse information that goes against what we see in our daily lives but statistics is supposed to measure information over a span greater than any of our lives. To ignore the data collected by those who came before us is to actively fight progress, and that’s the real enemy.