That’s just too much to conceive!

Humanity seems to have a fear of big numbers. Here are a couple of examples. The first time programmers see a software respository system and find out that the system can quite easily store a copy of every modification they’ve ever made to a program without running out of space. Seeing the pyramids and not believing that it’s possible for this to be made using human labour. Not believing that every image on the internet could be labelled accurately by only a few people in the world in a matter of months without paying them. Finding it amazing that google can search for your results on every web page on the internet in split seconds. Not believing that every species on the planet can evolve from mutation and repeating the process multiple generations. Folding a piece of paper 70 times over will take us out of our solar system a number of times over.

I’ll add more examples to the list later, but the common thread here is that each example involves a quantity that it’s difficult for the human mind to take in at once. It becomes, just a inconceivable number. It’s possible to know that one number is bigger than another on paper, but when confronted with it in front of us, the mind just boggles. So our intuition tells us unfortunately that it’s not possible, but scientific enquiry and particular mathematics often tells us that it is.

The moral here is: Don’t be scared of big numbers! Don’t trust your intuition, find a formula.

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One Response to “That’s just too much to conceive!”

  1. Overpopulation? « Daniel’s Blog Says:

    […] be in the world in the future are correct. But I don’t care. Human beings naturally have a fear of big numbers even when they are legitimately […]

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