Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Odd Thing About Odds

We were blessed with very successful treatments for Mrs. YDP's cancer.  We're not out of the woods yet, but given her type of cancer, treatments already employed, and future activity, we've got the the odds of her surviving this episode as 95%.  That is an outstanding number, and we're grateful for our prognosis.  Most folks aren't that lucky.

But a funny thing, those odds.  Consider the following:

  • On my website at work, I'd kill to have a 2% conversion of the traffic coming to the website.  I'd be hailed a hero.
  • If I went to a Delta Waterfowl dinner and they were raffling off a gun with a 5% chance of winning, I'd buy as many tickets as I could.
  • Back in my catalog days, a 5% response rate on a mailing was a hell of a performance, and would be considered a great success
In all of these situations, that puny little 5% isn't deemed so puny.  It's deemed as a success, and in the event of the raffle ticket, even good odds.

Now consider the cancer, and what the 5% actually means: there is a 5% chance not that you get an order or that you win a gun, there is a 5% chance that the cancer gets away from the treatment and that you die.

Good odds and a great diagnosis?  Absolutely.  High statistical probability of living through this?  Absolutely.  Still dangerous as hell?  Absolutely.

Funny how one's perspective of the same odds changes depending on the nature of the "payout."  

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