|Squaring the melon. Image source.|
Yes, I thought I was normal. Then I read that the average person is cognitively biased to think they’re special. Now I have a problem. I can either think I’m normal then I’m not, or I can think I’m special then I’m normal. Either way, I’m facing mental inconsistency. That shit bothers me. Is this normal?
Things you think about when stuck in small town traffic that’s suffered cardiac arrest by way of garbage truck blockage.
But, I thought, what are the odds of being normal?
Let’s take any variable with a normal distribution and define somebody as “normal” if within, say, a 2σ deviation of the mean. You are probably normal, by definition. Now let’s take N uncorrelated variables that are similarly distributed, like income, follicle density, number of friends on facebook, annual coffee consumption, amount of clothes owned, spectral distribution of these clothes, average number of words spoken per minute, time spent sleeping before the age of ten, and so on and so forth.
I’m sure you could list a few hundred such individual characteristics if somebody pointed a pun at your head. The probability that you’re average according to all characteristics is (0.95)N. This means if you look at about 400 different ways that people celebrate their individuality with, the probability that anybody is normal is less than one in a few billion.
This means there’s probably no normal person living on Earth today. In other words, it’s normal to be special.
That’s why the teenager from across the street’s got a million followers on YouTube, our downstairs neighbor wears shoes in two different sizes, and my colleague has meaningful conversations with moths. That’s why my older daughter is obsessed with boogers, that seventy year old just finished a marathon in 3 hours, the blonde woman is an undercover agent in search of pressure cookers, and the garbage truck driver can probably recite Goethe, backwards, in Latin. Which, for all I know, is exactly what he’s been doing instead of driving the damned truck.
Let’s not miss an educational opportunity here and mention that’s also why, if you analyze a dataset according to sufficiently many properties you’ll almost certainly eventually find something special about it. Or, if you study correlations between sufficiently many parameters you’ll eventually find a correlation. Being special really is normal.
And I - I have a particle data booklet in the glove box. What are the odds?