Statistically Insignificant


Increasingly, we find ourselves living in a data-driven world. In some simple situations, data are easy to compile and interpret. How many copies of a certain book have been sold in a certain store? The number should be easy to establish, even if some copies were lost or stolen. But how many people read this blog? I don’t know the answer to that question. The blog has three self-identified followers, but unless one posts a comment, there’s no way to know which of the three reads this post or any other. And there may be more “followers” (I can dream), because people may hide their identities by not letting themselves be listed on a blog as its followers. Besides, anybody can read this blog once or regularly without self-identifying at all.

Even so, I think it would be safe to say that as a blogger, I am statistically insignificant in the blogosphere. Although I read a few blogs frequently, I am statistically insignificant also as a reader. In fact, in this world of billions of people, I am in every way, yes, statistically insignificant. I am a datum, just one, and so it seems I can be significant only if I somehow uniquely relate in some meaningful way to many data by, say, selling a lot of books, making a lot of money, garnering a lot of votes, or getting a lot of people to pay to see or hear me do something. Or, I suppose, by being accused of a major crime, especially murder, right?

No, not exactly right.

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