The long game, the long view, strategic thinking. They are all the same thing – a process of not living for the short term but looking for longer-term payoffs. And yet we don’t live like it. We live in ‘the moment’ – guided by our short-term urges as we become ignorant of the laws of life.
The law of large numbers is one such example of a law we know of, but don’t understand.
We see 1% as a small number but ignore the impact of it on an enormous number. Take the mortality rate of COVID-19. If it was 1% – well that’s okay, we tell ourselves. One percent of a population the size of the US – well that’s a vast number – over three million. That’s not okay.
Not grasping this insight from the law of large numbers is one of two points we don’t understand. When we see summaries from vast sums of data, we naively believe the same dynamic applies to a smaller group. We think a 1% mortality rate won’t affect us, but the disease doesn’t take one from a family – it takes whole families.
We know this, but we don’t understand it.
We can’t grasp the risks; we can’t see the danger we have become ignorant of. We would rather go shopping on a busy high street to satisfy an urge for the joy of a day than stay safe by not.
We have forgotten the rules of playing the long game.