curiosity across disciplines

Socks and stats

So, you're in a temporary rut where your dryer is functioning as your dresser? We've all been there.

Or maybe you're just like this. I won't judge.

As you mosey down to the basement, cursing the cold concrete floor, you poke your head into the dryer looking for your attire for the day.

The "single-issue" items (pants, shirt, skivvies) are easy to find, so you go for the socks next. You find one.


Now, unless you have literally never gotten dressed straight out of the dryer, you already know where I'm going with this. What about the matching sock?

What indeed.

Are you Luke Danes, the lovable diner owner from Stars Hollow who buys the exact same socks, in bulk?

Do you use one of those nifty mesh laundry bags that keep all your chaotic, devilish undergarments wrangled in a single tidy package?

Well, since those were both obviously no, then you're stuck with statistics, and increasingly colder feet.

Assuming new socks every day, 3-4 staple variations, and the laundry schedule of someone operating out of the dryer, it's unlikely that you find the matching sock on the first try.

So you continue rummaging.

If you've got your wits about you, you'll make sure you grab every sock, increasing the chances of finding a matching pair, i.e., the Tinder strategy of hosiery.

Now, you might be wondering what the point of all this nonsense is. Yes, socks come in pairs and looking for them in the dryer is boring. Whoop-de-frickin-do.

Well, rather dryly, the "lesson" is this: statistics and random chance are not your friend. They're also not an unhinged ex out to get you.

Basically, statistics and chance just aren't that into you.

And while the storytelling, pattern-seeking part of your brain is associating the phrase, "just aren't that into you," with any number of popular movies and tv shows all having a negative connotation, the words themselves are just kind of neutral. They don't necessarily imply anything.

That's kind of the point, because you're mostly not a factor in how the humdrum mechanics of the world play out day-to-day.

"Thinking in bets" and remembering the apathetic nature of chance is hard specifically because it clashes with our default mode of communicating (and therefore thinking). That mode of course being storytelling and connecting.

So, if we do want to stick it to the statistical man and kick the cold, non-caring universe in the nards, our three fundamental options are: be boring, be clever, or like, invest in a mesh bag.