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The cost of the ludic fallacy…

…is $1.5 million.

A few days ago, The Washington Post wrote about two medical students who are also identical twins being accused of cheating. Their school, the Medical University of South Carolina, apparently doesn’t have anyone on staff who is both versed in statistics and willing to participate in an investigation. Enter paid consultants:

The university sent their test scores to a data forensics company, Caveon, which reported that the chances of two tests that similar being completed independently was “less than a person winning four consecutive Power Ball drawings.”

Invocation of forensics is the first red flag (see: Calculated Risks by Gerd Gigerenzer). Comparing any real-life probability Rule of thumb: if what you are doing professionaly made it into xkcd you should stop doing it. to lottery is the second. The uncertanty of real-life probabilities has little to do with known odds of games of “chance”. Confusing the two leads to the ludic fallacy, or “misuse of games to model real-life situations”. Nassim Taleb, The Black Swan, 2007.

The twins, now lawyers, sued and won the said $1.5M. Good for them.

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