fantasy_footballThis past Thanksgiving was the first time I had watched a football game since last Super Bowl. But that isn’t to say that I’m not up to date, as far as the happenings of the NFL. I closely follow game scores and statistics, but only so that I can win my family’s Fantasy Football League.

Despite the common student’s math class frustrations, I think humans have an innate penchant for statistics. Why? Because statistics is information, and we love information. The spark of interest caused by a Facebook notification, the butterflies resulting from the vibration of your phone due to a new text message (and the disappointment when you realize it’s just a text from your mom) —this is all evidence that we love new information.

Fantasy Football is now a billion dollar industry because it plays with our love of statistics. For those who don’t know, Fantasy Football is a game in which a number of members of a league draft football players into their “team,” and teams win games against other teams based upon how well the players on their team do. Participants choose which players to start, which players (who weren’t drafted by any other team) to add, and which players to trade in exchange for other players who will fit their team’s needs. Therefore, this game relies on prediction. How do we make these predictions? Statistics.

So many factors go into how well a player is going to play. One must take into account what team that player is playing against, that player’s lingering injuries, how heavily that player’s team is going to rely on that player.

Most importantly, we take into account how well that player has done in the past. In fact, statistics itself, and therefore all of the factors we take into account, rely on our analyses of how these factors interacted in the past. We use this information of how these players played in the past to predict how they will perform in the future, so inherently, we face uncertainty as we run against the Problem of Induction.

Conceived by David Hume, the Problem of Induction is most quickly described as science’s base assumption that the future will be like the past. Whenever we make a prediction, we must make this assumption. Even if I predict that a pen I am holding will fall if I drop it, I am assuming that the laws of gravity will work in the future just as they did every other time I dropped a pen.

We call the prediction “inductive,” because we are inferring a general law (the law of gravity) from past specific instances in which I dropped that pen. All sciences make the assumption that our past data can explain future data, but the ever-changing social world makes this problem especially salient in the social sciences.

The multitude of changing factors involved in the phenomena social scientists study complicates any kind of “laws” they may develop as the assumption that the future will be like the past does not follow as naturally as it does in the natural sciences.

Because making predictions for your Fantasy Football team involves this complexity of factors as is found in the social sciences, the art is far from a deterministic. For example, last week I started Mike Evans, wide receiver for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers over Marcus Colston, wide receiver for the New Orleans Saints, because Evans has scored more points than any other receiver since Week 7. However, Colston outscored Evans this week, as my decision was a contributing reason for my recent loss to my cousin, and thus, the end of my playoff-run.

But success in this game relies so heavily on chance, so don’t get too cocky, Jay.

 

IMG_64281Ayan Mandal is a freshman in the College. This marks the last installment of TECHNOLOSOPHY.

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