What chance probability?

Here’s my definition of the word “if” —

Pieces of Five - defining IF

Events either happen, or do not: saying “if”, or assigning a numerical probability, is only a thought beforehand. A % probability does not tell us about the particular outcome, it is a measure of our ignorance of the system (see Bruno de Finetti).

Mathematics is an abstraction from the real world, useful when it can be applied back to the world.

Probabilities are a mathematical abstraction from large numbers of events and have no meaning with respect to single events. You know the chance of a tossed coin showing heads, but before I flip one you cannot say anything useful in predicting the outcome.

Seeing our life as a continuing story, the future seems as real as the present. In this story of time, the future becomes the present – which is what we call our actual experience. But the future can only ever be a thought, it does not exist in any other form. “Future” is always an imagined potential present which is not our experience. Any imagined future may not become the present.

whether weather

A weather forecast which tells us “the best of the sunshine today will be in Glasgow” may be of interest but is no use to us (and little use even if we are in Glasgow) — we are interested in the weather we will experience. Weather in a different place is weather which does not happen to us. So also is weather which might have happened, but didn’t — a “probability” which did not manifest into reality. In other words a thought, given numbers. When the weather forecast for rain between nine and ten o’clock is 23%, is it going to rain or not? We don’t know.

Probabilities may be useful – but don’t bet on it.

One thought on “What chance probability?

  1. Im with you till the last line….surely the one thing you could usefully do is to bet…

    If the probabilities are well calibrated (ie. It actually rains 23% of the times that they forecast 23% chance of rain) you would be rich man if you found someone to take your bets



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