Probability as a Basis for Meaningful Action

Probability as a Basis for Meaningful Action

I have always been of the opinion that the most irrational element in the structure of modern science is its democratic outlook towards truth. Science approaches things from the perspective of a whole society, and not individual. This standard is quite euphemistically termed objectivity. If you look deeper, you will find objectivity to be nothing but a filter to ensure a strict denial of the personal experience of truth. You may look a reality in the face but nobody is going to believe you even if you show or prove it to them. The standard is to prove it so that every other dumbhead out there can verify it by following a certain procedure.

The concept of probability is a good example of the tyranny of majority inherent in scientific method. What probability actually does is map out a set of data from past events so that some patterns start to emerge as to how the collective outcome of certain actions is going to be. An individual action, however, is always as unpredictable in terms of consequences as the behavior of a single electron in a totally predictable context of an electron beam. This type of information may be of some value for governments, organizations and authorities but nothing can be more relentlessly brutal than this to an individual cause.

Let me illustrate the problem with an extreme example from real life settings. Say, I have a research that reports a 99.99% probability of success for a startup in Pakistan these days. What it means apparently is that if one launches a new business, it is almost certainly going to be successful. But in reality, it is only a picture of the future finished with all recent inductees in the field of entrepreneurship. What if I, an individual, only one of the aspirants, end up being among the unlucky 0.01%? After all, it exists, and for a reason. Is there any research-backed intelligence to ensure I am not a failure? I, and only I? Any logic, any science, any theory, any principle to ascertain a strictly individual, personal achievement? You see, the answer has nothing to do with probability anymore.

The thing is that even though patterns may exist on larger scales, individual phenomena are always as miserably unpredictable with all the science as they are without it. If I start a new business, I have to face a plain 50:50 probability ratio of success and failure like every single startup among my competitors. Even though 99.99% percent of us may ultimately come out successful yet each of us has essentially done nothing but play dice with the fate. What it means for the whole may be absolutely contrary to what it does for the part!

I have certain other reservations as well but I do believe ideas like probability can serve the society as a whole. That is what democracy is all about. But shall I dare question what good it is for me, the individual? Does the whole science with all its magnificent methods and outcomes give me a single benefit as an individual? Does it make it any easier for me to take some meaningful action for myself when I desperately need it? Am I not one of the individuals who make up the society it aims to serve? But am I still not just an individual and not the society at all? Shall science ever be able to realize the not-so-objective difference?

The problem here is that a whole, like society in our case, exists only as an intellectual convenience. That is why we have always been wondering how the whole can be greater than the sum of its parts. In fact, there are two wholes: one that is generalized intellectually in order to facilitate objective treatment and the other that actually is there. The whole that is generalized is a mere arithmetic sum, practically as dead as the rationale of probability for parts. The other that exists is never a whole but absolute parts that are there in their own right. Parts that may not always like to add up!

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