Probability and  Real-life applications.

Olisebuka Kanma Written by Olisebuka Kanma · 1 min read >

Learning can be interesting and mind-blowing sometimes but I usually enjoy learning more when I can find immediate use of what I’m learning in my everyday life. Without real-life applications of new knowledge, then learning just becomes learning for the sake of learning. Such knowledge is quickly forgotten. So, now, I am learning to use and not simply to pass exams.

I recently learnt about probabilities again after a nearly 12 year separation from the topic. In order for me to have a smooth relationship with this topic, I have decided to look for applications of probability in my everyday life. I did not have to look very far to see the use of probability in my life. It turns out that probability has a wide range of applications in my life, from routine activities to critical life altering decisions.

With a quick mental scan of my daily activities I find that I use probability every day. Unconsciously, we make judgements on likely outcomes based on experience. For instance, in choosing which route to follow, I know that for most days of the week I avoid roads that have markets on them when driving back home from work, as those roads are likely to have high traffic. However, on Friday it may be better to avoid roads with a mosque and use the road with a market. Another instance I noticed was how I bought fuel during the recent scarcity. I noticed that petrol stations on main roads had a high chance of selling fuel but they also had very long queues. However, the petrol stations on minor roads, had a lower chance of selling fuel, but when they did, they had shorter queues. So I would use this information to determine where I am likely to spend the least amount of time buying fuel. Although I did not always get the desired outcome, I was pleased with how often I was able to quickly buy fuel during the scarcity.

Finding instances of probability in high stake life decisions may seem difficult. This is because I almost always need a certainty of the outcome before making a decision. Ultimately, I have realized that the certainty of the outcome is never 100% until it has happened at which point it is no longer a probability. If I use making a decision on a career path as an example, the possible outcomes are success or failure. In this scenario, success or failure may be defined on a person to person basis, where success may be determined by money in the bank or reputation in a profession or field of study. At the start of the chosen career, the chance that the desired outcome will be obtained may be high, but it is not certain. It is perhaps for this reason that many parents prefer to chose a profession for their children as they believe that it will give their child the highest chance of success. These decisions, especially the ones made by concerned parents can be seen as judgement made based on experience.

There are many more instances where probability is used in every day life. Hence, when I am faced with the perhaps herculean task of making a decision based on probability, I will note that it is something I do every day and should not be overwhelmed by it.


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