‘Doomsday’ math: Humanity has 760 years left

‘Doomsday’ math: Humanity has 760 years left
Two of Germany's 95 active main battle tanks (Leopard 2A5s) show off their snorkeling capability. Black dot at head of right-hand wake is the second tank. (Image: Screen grab of Wikipedia video)

[Ed. – Hey, it’s better than 12.  Love the use of the German tank problem. Brings back fond memories of econometrics in college.]

Thomas Bayes (1702-1761) was an obscure country preacher who dabbled in math. He is remembered for Bayes’ theorem, a mathematical formula that shows how to use new evidence to adjust probabilities. Some believe that Bayes was trying to find a way to demonstrate the possibility of biblical miracles. In any case, his theorem got scant attention for two centuries, until the invention of computers.

Today, it is not much of an exaggeration to say that Bayes’ theorem is the foundation of the digital economy. It is what enables applications such as Google, Facebook and Instagram to use people’s personal data to predict what they will click on or buy, who they’ll swipe right on and who they’ll vote for. …

In a 1993 article in the journal Nature, Princeton astrophysicist J. Richard Gott III invoked math and population data to predict that the end is likely to come in under a thousand years. …

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The core of Dr. Gott’s reasoning (independently advanced by two other physicists, Brandon Carter and Holger Bech Nielsen) is known to statisticians as the “German tank problem.”

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