Media, Information and Probability (Nov7th 2016 to Fire and Fury)

OK this is my 2nd Redstate article so I figure you’re probably not reading this.

If you are, I’m going to apologize for click-baiting you.  I lied to you I’m going to go a bit back before November 7th 2016.   I figure you’re probably conservative so you will appreciate a good bit of nostalgia if it leads somewhere.

First in the present day let me disclaim I use statistics every day in running a finance company that I started 10 years ago.   While it may not be a badge of honor here- part of what I like about RS- I went to a good school and have above average academics.    I studied electrical engineering so I don’t buy any of that stuff about colleges being liberal breeding grounds FWIW.   At the same time, you can take my opinion here with a grain of salt because I dropped out after a year to join an internet startup that was quite successful.      Our company was quickly acquired and we wound up selling to another company you may not have heard of in 1998, a little company with about 40 servers called google.

Because I’m a nostalgic conservative, one of the people I follow that reminds me of the old days is this guy named Jeff Dean who still works at google.    (he built a lot of their early cloud computing and machine learning infrastructure and now probably works on helping us ensure that Hillary Clinton and Donald trump can never die and we can talk about them forever).

I did not know dean then or now but he’s a very sharp guy with great re-tweets… I was struck by a Dean retweet this week:



For me personally even though I tell most of our interns their data literacy and comp sci skills suck and must  improve…  for most people I’d happily give up those two skills for the first two of compound interest and probability.

Since this is red state, I feel like most people have a decent appreciation of compound interest.   I do feel like way, way too many people irrespective of their income or even educational background don’t really understand probability.   (if you are an engineer, applied maths person or math teacher, physicist, statistician, trader, entrepreneur, scientist or anybody else a little bit more interesting to talk to because you always think probabilisticly…. pat yourself on the back and ignore this post, double apologize for my click-bait).


My brother is somebody who is very sharp.    He worked 4 different jobs to put himself through school, working in construction, shoes, groceries and running a small business.    He was a business major.    More important to him he’s a packers fan.   He’s loved the packers since brett favre because my dad loves the packers (my dad loves the packers because his dad loves the packers, nobody bothered to discover where or how this started).


Getting back to probability neither my dad and my brother cannot watch packers games when their team gets behind.   I don’t get it because they’re one of the most successful teams of all time, especially now with Aaron Rodgers.     I especially don’t get it because both my dad and my brother are extremely smart and successful- unfortunately they do not understand probability.  [ full disclosure, My dad is a liberal arts major but he has run non-profit companies for many decades and before I discovered alex p keaton, he was one of my early conservative role models ]

This game, both my dad and bro had to stop watching it because they were certain the packers would lose:


This is the Packers / Lions game from 2015 where the game was extended by one play because of a penalty, then Rodgers threw a hail Mary:



Now look at this catch, and look at the win probability for the packers in the final moments… it was basically right above zero right before the spike to 100%.     The fat lady had not yet sung.

I am a conservative so I can always pay proper respect to any lady (if she is specially curvy I may do more than that if she accepts).   This and that I studied engineering means I am always looking for curvy ladies, in the hope they will sing me a beautiful tune even at the last possible moment.


If you were a trump voter, you experienced your unlikely hail mary about 14 months ago.   Like my brother today (after the game is over), you may have some version of the above gif for trump in your desktop background (i hope not but i am originally from the midwest so I know somebody does).

If you aren’t that much of a trumpkin, I’ll refresh your memory:




And yes… if you’re wondering… the east-coast liberal with the instinct of a mid-western bettor did honorably eat a bug (i think it was a chocolate covered grasshopper, but in the age of trump I think this is more than fair dealing):



Dr Wangs neuroscience career has not taken a hit, but he was not able to follow the nate silver path and writing a book and selling his website to espn (pretty sure he did not desire to do this, but he didn’t regardless).    One guy who did a little bit better was the guy who did sell to espn:



Note that while some MSM outlets reported 2 polls as being correct- including Fox News- nobody actually predicted that Hillary would win the popular vote by 2% and Trump would still win the electoral college.   Well, Fox News tried to tell you somebody was correct but both of these firms- IBD and LA Times Tracking polls, both had a larger margin of error on the 2016 race than almost all of the liberal MSM polls which predicted a hillary 2% popular vote win.



(no tweet from foxnews here handy, guess not enough millenials getting news from fox)

Point is… probability is not a democratic nor a republican thing… it’s a thing everybody can improve on because we’re all wrong in our beliefs at some point.   Well, I will hedge my bet a bit here because you can only improve if you can admit when you’re wrong.    If you can’t, you don’t learn and you’re a stuck clock which is right only when aaron rodgers is healthy, playing the lions and they have to give everything to at least have a shot to get in the playoffs and sign a bigger deal in the offseason.


Now that the fire and the fury has now been wikileaked, hillary email style… I advise you to think of every sentence and conclusion as a probabilistic statement… somewhat true because the Trump team invited this guy to spend time with them for a year… and somewhat not true because well, when is anything true 100.000000000% of the time?

A couple of handy probability tips:

  • each person you know may assign different probabilities to same event- it’s ok because they’re uncertain.
  • In google’s wisdom of the crowds fashion, you can rank your subjective opinions by averaging
  • if two statements are independent, their probabilities add together…. eg, perhaps “Bannon and Kushner didn’t want Christie to be VP”…
  • if two statements follow, where one depends on the other… the dependent statement is multiplied… eg Seems like Trump got into some money laundering in some of these over seas countries (p1), and maybe Putin would know about ones involving either Russian oligarchs (p2) or business activities happening in former Russian republicans run by friends of Putin (p3)… eg PDT_ML=p1 * (p2 + p3)


Anyways I probably got you into more trouble with probability than when you started… but this is red state after all, so you’re welcome!       For me, I generally DO NOT recommend over-dependence on the hail mary…. hence go patriots!




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