Traditionally people don't like mathematics, but they seem keen to work out what others owe them and what change they should get in the shop.
I overheard a couple of people talking in a shop. They were looking at some potion or the other. They said, 'It contains Vitamin C, so it must be good.' They were making a fundamental mistake. And a very common mistake.
How MUCH Vitamin C did it contain?
What is the SIGNIFICANCE of this amount?
If Vitamin C is good for you, then the amount you need for that good effect is important. If you have too much, its probably bad. If you have too little, then it won't do any good. The twice Nobel prize winning champion of Vitamin suggested that you should take mega-doses, that is several grams a day. If the potion contains only a few milligrams, then it probably won't work. (This is not the nutrition mailing list so take this with a pinch of salt. Don't forget to ask: How much salt and what is the significance of that amount!!!) (-:)
These are two essential questions that should pop into your mind whenever there is the remotest possibility that quantity is involved. If you hate mathematics, then steel yourself, because these questions can take you a long way.
People do not understand probabilities. If the chance is 1% then that might be OK. Sometimes a 50% chance is OK. It depends on what the alternative is.
In the UK 2 out of 3 people do the Lottery. They have more chance of being run over by a bus than winning a substantial amount. They do not believe they will be run over by a bus, but they do believe in some way they will win the lottery. They wouldn't buy insurance against being run over by a bus, but they waste their money on gambling!
The point is that we need to have some idea of the significance of any value.
Values are largely comparisons. And we have already learned how to deal with comparisons.
We can now add the quantity questions:
Sometimes we can't use numbers to answer these questions. We use comparisons.
Now, living longer may seem like something good. If the advice is to run for 4 hours a day, give up smoking and lovers, and eat only peanuts. Then we might not even bother to ask any questions! But if it was something reasonable we might ask:
And we would ask ourselves, if not the adviser:
If you would live an hour longer, it might not be very significant, unless you were about to expire in the next minute!
Many statements seem to make sense or be attractive because we do not know what the quantities involved are.
Don't forget to ask yourself or the speaker:
It is said that one of the secrets of wealth is to know value. Certainly a lot of bamboozling involves statements with undetermined values. A statement can sound good, as long as it isn't quantified.
A variation of this is:
10% of a penny isn't really worth anything, is it?
The Being Specific Model is valuable only if you learn it well and use it. So if you need to refresh check out the appropriate Web Site for the back postings.
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Most Recent Revision: 20-Mar-99.
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