Reasoning with “uncertainty” is at the core of analytics. The science of uncertainty itself has two faces: probability and statistics. Probability allows us to calculate the “likelihood” and “unlikelihood” of events. If God, Death, and Taxes are the only certainties, then the rest of life lies squarely in the realm of probability. Statistics allows us to reason from what is known to what is unknown. Taken together the two disciplines allow us to cast a beam for peering across space and time.
Given the importance of the two disciplines, not just for modern science but also for critical thinking, it’s a wonder they remain marginal to the curriculum.
In a delightful video Harvard’s Joseph Blitzstein gives us a flavor of the “soul of statistics”. As the example of “missing data” illustrates ordinary reasoning is full of pitfalls.
Blitz’s complete lecture course (Stat110), available on both YouTube and iTunes University, is a tour-de-force. It’s not easy going but one of the best open content materials on the web. Blitzstein notes in interview that “I talk a lot about paradoxes and results which at first seem counterintuitive, since they’re fun to think about and insightful once you figure out what’s going on.”