Why Calculus must triumph over Statistics for the sake of humanity
This article (or thought penning) is the outcome of my prolonged thought of bringing aspects touching humanity into a mathematical framework of sorts. After thinking through in large I believe that most of the aspects that touch human life, and not only science and technology can be broadly defined with two aspects of mathematics: Calculus and Statistics. First I would like to highlight why this “thought exercise” is important and then go into the specifics.
Why the topic?
We want to better the overall quality of human life in one form or the other and take the civilization forward. We want to better our lives and things we have(and that we do not yet have). We also want to keep the progress of human civilization and solve some of the critical problems that our society faces today. So, we need a model to categorize items and acts and learn from the good and bad, thereby making our lives, home, neighborhood and the world a better place going forward. The fundamental method for doing that is asking the right question. We traditionally cannot ask the right question without the right framework. Therefore I want to present a generic and mathematics(in literal sense) model for you to categorize your thoughts and ask the right question.
In layman’s term, the calculus is the study of smallest possibility and then exploring the unknown universe from there on whereas statistics is the science that explores the relationship in an already existing known universe and gives us meaningful relationships in the universe.
Let us make it more simple by calling calculus as the ability of mathematics to explore possibilities whereas statistics help us exploring probabilities. Hence Calculus search substance, statistics search processes. Calculus explores impossible, statistics find more possibilities. Calculus goes from -∞ to +∞ whereas statistics talk about 0 to n. Calculus is imagination, statistics is exploration. Calculus is the arts of mathematics, Statistics is the Science of it. Calculus is intuition, statistics is reflex. Calculus is our subconsciousness whereas statistics is our consciousness. Calculus is the sixth sense whereas Statistics is the rest of the five senses combined. Calculus starts from unknown and never saturates, whereas statistics start from random and stops at a point when there is no randomness. Calculus is a game of infinite possibilities, statistics is the finite world. Calculus is lateral, statistics is literal.
Calculus is the atomic world where entities may exist in an infinite number of states, orders, and arrangements, Statistics is the digital world where logics stays within 0 and 1.
Calculus is contrarian, statistics is contemporary.
In political systems a Calculus is capitalism(create wealth), Statistics is communism(don’t create anything, find the best distribution). Statistics prove that we exist, Calculus defines why we exist!
They are entirely different by nature but have immense significance in human life and the general progress of humanity. Exploring unknown facts in a known world is as important as exploring unknown worlds themselves.
The history vs Current state
So obviously we have to know who won in the past and who is winning now. We also need to asses the gains and prizes of those wins and then we can debate on which should win. “How” is an open-ended question that I want to leave the readers with.
The journey of humanity started from hunting on every hunger. Fighting with bare hand did our early ancestors did. So in terms of calculus that is a perfect beginning. There is a hunger, there is the need for food, there is a need for survival and literally, nothing exists other than raw and hostile earth, the groups of human, their brain and their hand. Let’s use statistics in that world and see how the solutions would look like.
What is the probability that two man and a woman can kill a wild pig effectively? Which time can they kill the pig? Which are the areas where such pigs can be found more? Can you imagine reading that in your mobile screen today? Hell no. Some insane men and/or women then thought it makes more sense to build tools and weapons to haunt easily. No tool to some tool. Resonates? Then they realized that effort can be reduced if they don’t have to haunt at all. Again a drastic all from drastic none and the agriculture started. Then the fire happened and another insane set of human thought well, it makes sense to burn the food and make it easy for digestion. Uncooked food needed 90% of human time, now it was reduced to 5-10%, leaving the men and women with enough free time to do the statistics and calculus of their time. During that period, because we had many things, statistics came along. who should live with whom, where should they leave? And humanity densified near the banks of the great river thanks to literal thinking and power of statistics.
From walk to carts, from tree trunks to home, calculus took the humanity further and better carts, better home, better civilization, more planning steadied the race with the help of statistics. But the man and woman of statistics and calculus walked together. The marriage was balanced till the mid 20th century. From classical physics to modern physics, then to quantum mechanics, from horse cart to cars, from land and water travel to the sky, from sky to space. Such paradigm shifts have been a true hallmark of modern society. From snow mining to refrigerators.
However, we have stopped seeing such paradigm shifts since past few decades barring mobile phone as an exception. This I strongly believe is the result of wrong questions being asked and irrelevant questions being answered.
The wrong questions
Change in bias or confidence in the mathematical model has lead to us forgetting the art of asking the right question. Here are a few classic examples.
The question we are asking is how can we build higher buildings( and yet actually no one is building anything as high as WTC), or how to put more homes in less area? How to construct more houses in less time/money and resources? However, the fundamental bias in the questions is that houses are the only solution to solve the space problems of humans. Can we have any solution that can serve to host human groups going in the future? Isn’t that the more relevant question? The answer may lie in home and housing or may lie in something which we have no idea about today.
Again we are asking questions like how we increase the fuel efficiency of the cars, how can we increase car safety and capacity, how to increase their speed? How to shift the vehicles to renewable energy sources. Foundation again you see lie in the fact and assumption that we will continue to have cars or personal transport. You can not increase roads and infrastructure at a pace that the human population and the need for personal transport is growing. The fundamental assumption is that we humans need to travel. Isn’t personal travel are associated with certain jobs to be done? Like going to offices, schools, malls. Isn’t the right question to ask is “How to reduce the need for daily travel itself?” That can have a drastic solution like offices, schools may adopting something like virtual reality to enable humans to be in the place they want without traveling. Or, it could be even more drastic. But none the less, every questions we are asking around the bias of what we have.
The less we talk about this, the better. We are asking how to educate more kids? How to increase the quality of education? How to make education linked to more jobs? However, the underlying assumption is that we need education. I think the more appropriate and fundamental question to ask here is do we need education at all in the first place? Education is supposed to be offering the skills needed for a human to find a great career going ahead. But are we consuming the service as a productive tool or as an insurance product? The answer is education today is served as an insurance product. A vague security scheme for the future wrapped in the fear psychosis of loosing out. Isn’t more fundamental question to ask here is how we can make our next generations be better prepared for the future and develop a learning skill so that they can adapt and pivot fast as the time demands? How to improve the learning which facilitates our learning? These questions may result in something drastically different than education all together.
We teach our kids of what exists and how to solve problems with modern education. We do not teach them to visualize a different world with things that do not exist or unknown.
Health is close to my heart as I am passionate about solving some of the critical health challenges of today’s time. But when I look around with the development around the industry, it is not too far behind education in asking wrong questions. today we ask how to connect doctors with patients more efficiently? How to offer better drugs for diseases? How to reduce the cost of healthcare? How to take the service of healthcare to the last mile? How we can prevent diseases? How to manage patients data better? How to improve hospital services? The fundamental flaw with these sets of questions is that it assumes diseases are an inherent part of human life, that bad health can be detected either at an early stage or be well managed at a later stage. Once a person has bad health, his life can be improved. Few may argue that wellness solves the problem by saying you remain fit to avoid diseases altogether. Well, all of these questions fundamentally are around diseases. Whether detect, manage, cure, prevent. But diseases none the less. Are we not supposed to eliminate them from the face of the world? Are we not to try developing solutions that make heart diseases, diabetic, cancer, AIDS and Alzheimer’s and others? Or should we stay in the realm of staying infinitely around the belief that diabetic is a reality, let’s try to avoid it, or manage it?
You can actually take any industry you wish and you would be surprised to learn how we have given away the lateral thinking for literal thinking. How we have given away Calculus for statistics. Take any industry and you can easily find that statistics has literally replaced the calculus.
Today we talk about “aggregation”, “bettering the world”, “improving the world”. If you look into modern business adventures, how many top wealthy individuals, even the likes of Jeff Bezos will be inclined to set off a factory like Tata steel factory? which are the growing area? Financial services, insurance, productivity tools, analytics, machine learning, artificial intelligence. And all of these are by products of statistics, which is optimize the output of what we have, learn from what we have, better what we have. Think something extra that we can do.
Disruption is another buzz word loved by statistical world. You have something which someone is challenging and overhauling. In Calculus world we have yet to find a parallel buzz word of this sort.
No discussion is really of any meaning for us today if that doesn’t have money or wealth in the discussion. People will argue how statistical world has to lead to the development of modern industrial growth and how billion dollar industries are getting created. How people are making money.
Sadly, here also we have gone wrong in a fundamental fact. The fundamental fact of statistics is it is finite. Anything which is finite remains finite. Nothing adds up, nothing goes away. The finite element simply changes its form from one form to another. A glass of water will always remain a glass of water irrespective of the form it is in. Whether steam or ice, it still is equivalent to a glass of water and it stays that way if another glass is not found out.
Therefore most of the current businesses are a zero-sum game. One grows at the expense of someone else’s loss. The getters are simply luckier, the losers are simply from the unlucky category. But they can still be represented with a pie chart. Hospitals making more money at the expanse of insurance loosing more money, insurance will make more money if a part is taken by wellness and reduce the money that goes to hospitals. Lenders will make money as long as people buys a Ponzi scheme insurance policy called education. Money growing to education institutes will reduce the flow that people would have otherwise spent in say entertainment or sports. Industries already have started taking low skill manpower and relying on machines to reduce human resource cost. That means one day, the need for being educated will evaporate. It will result in money loss by education institutes and people will spend that in other things like health or housing.
But ultimately one will earn only if other lose.
So if you think that you have solved the puzzle and made money then that simply is temporary because it is the rule of statistics, it is the rule of the finite world.
My view of the future
I am of the opinion that we start promoting thoughts that asks uncomfortable questions. That asks questions which looks crazy from a statistical point of view but feasible in calculus world. We need to teach our kids to ask right questions. They don’t have to challenge the status queue and propose a disruptive alternative. They have to paint a vision of the world that is more beautiful than today with props that doesn’t exist today. Remember statistics stop at n, calculus is only infinity. if humanity forgets the art of infinity and calculus it will every day come closer to statistical saturation. Our quest shouldn’t be a better world but rather a perfect world. We must not silence difficult questions and people asking them. We must be more biased for rewards than risks. Statistical world finds sustainability of it’s own one way or the other, but to offer it the resources to sustain we need calculus to offer the infinite possibilities to choose from!
We must start thinking about possibilities of “something succeeds” rather than getting lost in the probabilistic analysis of “the probability of success”.
Therefore in my opinion we are at a crucial time where Calculus must reborn and win again to take the human endeavor forward and offer the resources statistics needs.