I read a statement by an excellent woman writer that I admire. She seemed a bit down. Her teen daughter's anxieties and doubts about what the girl's future would be and the news teamed up on her. The news was filled with highly improbable events, good ones and bad ones. Of course, the journalists and the editors are likely to look for events that surprise, either with positive or negative feelings. If the events are sufficiently improbable, you can just discount the news as you might reading about events in a far-off tribe who are not near you, don't live as you do and have very little to do with you.
But when you view the events through the lens and the emotions and the doubts of a sharp and well-educated teen, you can see how the improbability might be a little muted, a bit distant. A person could read about such events and let the feelings of lift or loss emerge inside without using the probability filter. About fifty years ago, I wrote my dissertation based on decision theory, which is based on measures of probability and value. Much more recently, I read The Improbability Principle by David Hand and Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert. These books are related to our ability to have a feel for our future.
Of course, as we age, we expect less of a future to have. A long time back, two medical scientists estimated the "natural" average human lifetime to be 85 years, with a standard deviation of 15 years. That might mean that barring warfare, car accidents and other life terminators, the majority of people would live between 70 and 100 years. James Michener advised younger people to fool around until they are 40 years of age, on the grounds that until you are 40, you are still experimenting, trying things out. Gilbert has evidence that people are not good at predicting the happiness they will feel in the future. Hand shows that some very odd things will occur in this world, especially if given scrupulous newshounds that hunt down and report odd or amazing things that happen anywhere on the planet at any time.
When education scientists and data analysts think about people and data, they try to remember forces that can modify educational outcomes and experiments. One of the most important of these factors is maturation. Take a look at a photo of yourself at age 15 or 17 and look carefully for traces of the person you were by 30 or 40. You probably can't see the strength, the imagination, the flexibility, the intelligence that are blooming beneath the surface. You will undoubtedly recall some times in life when a bit of challenge, a defeat, a strong putdown, a rotten event actually brought home to you or those around you surprising skill, ingenuity or patience. I say don't be too sure you know what's up next for you and yours. Don't be too sure you have an inkling of what yours may accomplish. Your own parents may have been surprised by you.
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