Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Louis CK Is Dead Wrong

"Out of all the people that ever were, almost all of them are dead."

—Louis CK

Louis CK (very funny guy) does a nice stand-up routine, but I couldn't help noticing that one line in his opening.  As I calculated in Skeptically Speaking...(part II), there's an unexpectedly large percentage of people that are still among the living:
"Surprisingly, I computed about 30% of people who have ever lived are still living. I was a little skeptical of this, so I decided to look it up and found that other people have done this problem as well and they estimated 5.8%. Since these numbers are easily within an order of magnitude of each other, they're likely close to the actual result."
No matter which result you take, it's clear that not "almost all" of us are dead.  This counter-intuitive result stems from the fact that population growth can happen exponentially.  Put another way, there simply weren't that many people back in the day, but they had a lot of sex so there are a lot more of us now.  Admittedly, it's probably a bad sign that I'm more irked by this mathematical inconsistency than I am by the whole having sex with a dead kid thing.


  1. Where is the math? =)
    anyways, that's surprisingly interesting!
    best, Aaron.

  2. You can find a little more detail here:

    The actual math more messy than I wanted to put on the blog, but I can send it to you if you like.

  3. Good catch! It's a counter-intuitive thing I keep hearing repeated over and over again.