Occasional reflections on Life, the World, and Mathematics

The first statistician


I like to share with beginning statistics students the aphorism of C. R. Rao

Uncertain knowledge + knowledge about the extent of uncertainty in it = Useable knowledge

And it just occurred to me that the extreme limit of this dictum is that if you are infinitely uncertain, if nothing is knowable, the knowledge of that fact in itself is highly useable. The realisation of which would seem to make Socrates the first statistician:

Well, although I do not suppose that either of us knows anything really beautiful and good, I am better off than he is – for he knows nothing, and thinks that he knows. I neither know nor think that I know. In this latter particular, then, I seem to have slightly the advantage of him. (Apology, translated Benjamin Jowett)

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