904: Sports

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Also, all financial analysis. And, more directly, D&D.
Title text: Also, all financial analysis. And, more directly, D&D.


First, a random number generator is something that can give a person any number within a range of numbers. (Or, possibly, any number at all.) For example, a single six-sided die will give you any integer between 1 and 6 inclusive.

Second, with an unweighted random number generator each number that is possible has an equal chance of coming up. For example, on a single die there is usually an equal chance of getting a 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6.

Third, a weighed random number generator is one where some numbers are more likely to come-up than others. For example, a weighted die might favor the 6 side more, and thus it will come-up more often.

This comic is referencing the fact that sports, all sports, generate numbers that are essentially random. The rules of the sport and the skill of the participants weighs the numbers toward certain outcomes. Every game produces a new batch of numbers: more home runs, more sacks, more passes, more shots, more hits, more misses, more goals. If the generator is weighted to favor a specific team in a specific game, that is discussed. Then the results of the game (more random numbers) are discussed. It's the discussion that is the narrative part. If a player breaks a record, that becomes part of the narrative. The number is random, but weighted because of player skill or the rules of the sport.

The title text applies this to financial/stock results/forecasts as well. And, most appropriately to Dungeons & Dragons (D&D), which is a game where most aspects of the game are determined by rolling dice of various numbers of sides and the numerical results are woven into a narrative by the Dungeon Master.


[Two commentators sit behind a desk.]
Commentator 1: A weighted random number generator just produced a new batch of numbers.
Commentator 2: Let's use them to build narratives!
Comment.png add a comment!


This comic highlights the tendency to interpret so-called "events" based on essentially random, day-to-day changes that are indistinguishable from trends. Sports writers and directly accused of this. Financial analysts are equally culpable. D&D Dungeon Masters are guilty as well, but I reckon Randall states this somewhat tongue-in-cheek as the role of a DM is to deliberately spin a good yarn.

--Smartin (talk) 04:21, 3 January 2013 (UTC)
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