Sunday, October 19, 2008

Counter examples in real life

Counter examples are so crucial to the study of statistics. With the backing of much long-winded epistemology, the consensus is that although you cannot prove something to be true, you can prove the opposite of it to not be true.

In every day life, we often discuss individuals that we would like to emulate. Indeed, we speak of our heroes and inspirations incessantly. But we discuss much less often our "anti-heroes," people that we strive to be unlike from in some specific way. Note that I am not saying that this is never done, just that it is comparably done much less.

Why is this? Perhaps it stems from a desire to be polite, which may be admirable. But the world we live in is so confusing and there are so many people telling us what we "should" do. It seems that society would benefit if the question was more often reversed and we were told what we should not do, which people we should not emulate.