Thanks to Chad L. from Baton Rouge, Louisiana for this week’s question:
If you could learn one statistic about your life, what would it be and why? Whether it be knowing exactly how many words you’ve spoken, how many miles you’ve walked, or something very specific like the number of red skittles you’ve eaten in your lifetime.
Possible follow-up: How about if you could learn one statistic about the world as well?
Tim’s Answer: Thanks, Chad. Thinking about this was a good use of two hours of my Sunday when I’m in a desperate battle against myself to make progress on the next post.
I think I’d go with the number of people I’ve had a one-on-one interaction with of some kind. But what would make it super interesting is if the statistic could come along with all the related data—i.e. the date each interaction happened, the place, the name and demographics of the person, etc.—so I could make a bunch of fascinating charts and graphs. Then after four hours I’d be bored of it and regret my decision.
For the follow-up about a statistic about the world in general, here’s what I’m thinking—there are all kinds of stats on the religious breakdown of the world population. But what I want to know is how many of those people truly believe in an afterlife. Even people that are unsure, deep down, have a hunch one way or the other. I want to know how many people see death as a transition to a new thing versus something final. And if Chad let me push my luck, I’d really want to then measure the average level of happiness of the group who thinks death is final vs. the group who thinks there’s an afterlife and see if the levels are similar. Because if so, it would be pretty good proof that happiness is entirely an internal thing and not at all based on circumstances.