Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Great quote

"... I think we have quite a good chance to reach an agreement. There are reasons to believe it will happen. An increasing awareness by the parties that this will only get harder. That the population and demographics will not change. Everybody pretty much knows what a deal would look like ... the chances are at least 50/50 that there will be an agreement..." - Bill Clinton, speaking at the Clinton Global Initiative (re Middle East peace talks)

Well, what exactly does a "50-50 chance" mean? Googling came up with multiple results, including:

a) an event whose occurrence is about as likely to occur as not,

b) a 50/50 chance means there are two outcomes, and each one is equally likely,

c) "... Equiprobability is a philosophical concept in probability theory that allows one to assign equal probabilities to outcomes when they are judged to be equipossible or to be "equally likely" in some sense. The best-known formulation of the rule is Laplace's principle of indifference (or principle of insufficient reason), which states that, when "we have no other information than" that exactly N mutually exclusive events can occur, we are justified in assigning each the probability 1/N. This subjective assignment of probabilities is especially justified for situations such as rolling dice and [[lottery|lotteries]since these experiments carry a symmetry structure, and one's state of knowledge must clearly be invariant under this symmetry.for an action with two mutually exclusive possibilities...", etc. , etc.

Ouch, about as clear as mud. However, let's look at Middle East peace using these definitions... Considering a), it is clear (to this blogger at least, if not Bill Clinton) that peace breaking out in the Middle East is not an occurrence that is as likely to occur as not... In fact it is extremely unlikely to occur, and this is precisely why were the parties involved actually able to pull it off they would have 'beaten extremely long odds' and achieved something spectacular (Nobel Prizes all around!). Clearly b) is not applicable, as there are a whole range of possibilities along a continuum from peace to all-out war, and not just two equally likely outcomes... Perhaps we can all agree that Clinton is indulging in more hope/hype than reality here....

On a side note, this blogger isn't exactly sure what the folks at the Initiative were drinking, as they also let loose such gems as:

  • Speaking at the panel discussion, President Shimon Peres said water and electricity issues must be resolved, adding, "The sun is the world's strongest nuclear reactor."
  • Peres also stated that in order for peace to last, hunger must be prevented.
  • Bill Clinton also discussed the threats Israel faces. Technology has given rise to more precise rockets, Clinton said, adding that presently there are few rockets killing many people rather than many rockets killing few.
Of course the last bullet (Clinton on Palestinian rockets) is absolute nonsense, and the exact opposite of reality....

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