People do not understand numbers

From Slashdot | Computers May Thwart 2010 Census

1% error (Score:3, Insightful)

by Red Jesus (962106) on Wednesday March 26, @04:05PM (#22873228)

He also said the computers actually are easy to use, with a failure rate of less than 1 percent when tested in the field.

One percent of three hundred million is three million.

Re:1% error (Score:5, Insightful)

by eepok (545733) on Wednesday March 26, @04:21PM (#22873446)

Ya, people are really bad when it comes to big numbers. I was a part of a research study as an undergraduate with the following premise:

You’re on a jury for a murder case with the scenario that a tan/brown man seen running away from a murder scene on a college campus. There was not enough of the attacker’s DNA at the scene, but they were able to extract a DNA derivative that has matched that of a tan man in custody. Given that this derivative has a 99.9% successful rate, do you feel comfortable convicting the man in custody.

I was the only one in my group of 12 to say “No, I will not convict based on this evidence.” No one else understood that 0.1% = 1/1000. Nor did they realize that our university alone had 20,000+ people on the campus at any time let alone that it was in the middle of a city of 200,000+.

Most people know what “fifty” is. Many know what “one hundred” is. Few understand what “one thousand” is. Too few understand the effects of millions, billions, and trillions.
There’s no way I’d convict with a 0.1% error, there’s no way I’d accept a 1% error in the business of millions.

[Slashdot] [Digg] [Reddit] [] [Facebook] [Technorati] [Google] [StumbleUpon]

Comments are closed.