Louis CK's Actuarial Statements
- A random group of 2,500 people is a good sample of the total population,
- There's a good probability that someone in a group of 2,500 people will not be alive in two months
- The death will be a "sh**ty" death
Statement 1 - Does 2,500 constitute a large enough group to represent the general population?
This is a classic statistical problem. It's what I affectionately refer to as the "size does matter" problem. There's a good chance an aspiring actuary could find a problem like this in one of their first actuarial exams, Exam P. Like many actuarial problems, the answer is not simply "yes" or "no".
- at 90% confidence, 2,500 people are needed to get within +/- 1.7% of the population rate
- at 95% confidence we are at +/- 2%
- at 99% confidence we are at about ~2.5%
Statement 2 -How good of an estimate is 1 death out of 2,500?
Not too shabby actually! But, there are a few items that require further consideration.
Then we play a little game. Probability is like the force - there are two sides. The chance of someone dying in two months is the opposite of someone living for three months. Survival is important. In the real world, you can't die twice. That's Hollywood, and those actuarial tables are nasty!
The likelihood of survival is 1 minus the death rate. To survive three months in a row, we multiply the numbers together. As an equation: 1 - Did not die X Did not die X Did not die.
The result is 0.0001, which, when applied to the audience of 2,500 says that really only 25% of a person will have died, or 1 person will be 25% dead. Interpret that how you will. On the surface, it seems that Louis CK missed on the monthly rate.
Anyway, it is worth asking the question would Louis CK's audience be likely to have a higher chance of death than the general population? Is his audience made up of more young single men, or is followed by an older crowd of people working through their second divorce and need some bitter humor to get through it all? How much more alcohol does the audience of a comedy show drink than the typical person? What about tobacco use? I could buy an argument that the audience in question may be more likely to die than the rest of us, but I don't know if we could say they are 4 times more likely. Unless Louis CK is doing a show for the terminally ill, or to inmates on death row.
One other caveat, Louis hinted that they'd be dead by Christmas. There could be monthly peaks. January for instance, is not that great.
SHORT ANSWER: Not bad if we extend 2 months to a full year.
Statement 3 - What can we say about the quality of the death?
- Broken Hearts - When long time couples reach the "to death do us part" moment, turns out that the surviving spouse won't last much longer. It's something out of a Nicholas Sparks novel.,
- Getting Hit By a Bus - and other deaths caused by accidents, have their own sets of tables and are lower than death by other causes