Talk:1252: Increased Risk

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
Revision as of 14:22, 16 August 2013 by (talk)
Jump to: navigation, search

I think this is to address the old chestnut of "<something> will double your risk of getting cancer!", or the like, where the risk of getting that cancer (in this example) is maybe 1 in 10,000, so doubling the risk across a population wouldmake that a 1 in 5,000 risk to your health... which you may still consider to be an acceptable gamble if it's something nice (like cheese!) that's apaprently to blame and you'd find abstinence from it gives a barely marginal benefit for a far greater loss of life enjoyment. Also, this sort of figure almost always applies towards a specific form of cancer, or whatever risk is being discussed, meaning you aren't vastly changing your life expectancy at all. In fact, the likes of opposing "red wine is good/bad for you" studies can be mutually true by this same principle (gain a little risk of one condition, lose a little risk from another). (Note: I don't know of any particular "cheese gives you cancer!" stories doing the rounds, at the moment. I bet they have done, but I only mention it because I actually quite like cheese. And I probably wouldn't give it up under the above conditions.)

It's also possible that this covers the likes of "<foo> in <country> is 10 times more dangerous than it is <other country>" statements. Perhaps only ten incidents happened in the former, and a single instance in the latter, out the whole of each respective country. Or a single incident occured in both, but the second country is ten times the size, so gets 'adjusted for population' in the tables. And, besides which, that was just for one year and was just a statistical blip that will probably revert-towards-the-mean next year.

Finally, for a given risk of some incident happening on the first two trips, with no 'memory' or build-up involved, it pretty much is half-as-likely-again for the incident to have happened (some time!) in three separate trips. (Not quite, if those that lose against the odds and get caught by the incident the first or second trip never get to have a (second or) third trip... but for negligable odds like thegiven example, of the dog with the handgun, it's near-as-damnit so.) 11:12, 16 August 2013 (UTC)

Where did "dogs with shotguns" come from? I only saw "handgun" in the comic. Besides, I interpreted the risk as being hit by a negligent discharge from the handgun, not being deliberately attacked by the dog. Also, since probabilities are the set of real numbers between 0 and 1 inclusive, there are an uncountable number of them. "A x% increase in a tiny risk is still tiny" is an inductive statement, which means it could only be used to argue that a countable set of numbers is tiny. 12:24, 16 August 2013 (UTC)

If induction base is uncountable, you can prove it for the whole [0; 1]. For example your induction base may be "every risk under 0.00000000000000000001% is tiny". --DiEvAl (talk) 12:38, 16 August 2013 (UTC)

I think it's worth mentioning that this comic doesn't distinguish between percentages and percentage points. --DiEvAl (talk) 12:35, 16 August 2013 (UTC)

Is it the case that doing something three times increases risk by 50% over two times inherently? I feel like this is the case, but it's early, here. Also, I'm not sure Randall is attacked by a dog, he may be using it as a diversion. I think that he's done this before. Theo (talk) 12:56, 16 August 2013 (UTC)

(First, good point, DiEvAl, about the percentages/percentage-points. I knew I'd missed something out in my first thoughts. I actually tend to assume against percentage points, which is somewhat the opposite from what I've seen in the general public.)
Actually, depends on how you count it. But I was using the "encounter 'n' incidents per trip", "encounter '2n' incidents per two trips", "encoutner '3n' incidents per three trips" measure, where 3n==2n+50%. But that works best with a baseline of >>1 incidents per trip assumed. In reality, if the chance is a fractional 'p' for an occurance in one instance, it's (1-p) that it didn't occur thus (1-p)n that it didn't occur in any of 'n' instances and 1-(1-p)n that it did (at least once, possible several times or even all). Not so simple, but for p tending to zero it 'does' converge on 1.5 times for across three what you'd expect for two (albeit because 0*1.5=0). Like they say, "Lies, Damn Lies...", etc. ;) 14:22, 16 August 2013 (UTC)

I don't think Randall is being attacked by a dog at all. What he's saying is that if you are going to think getting attacked by a shark is so likely, then you better be watching out for that never-gonna-happen dog scenario too. Jillysky (talk) 13:56, 16 August 2013 (UTC)