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Liv Boeree's TEDx Conference Is All About Numbers

Liv Boeree
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  • Poker taught @Liv_Boeree to think about all kinds of things in terms of probability - including emotions.

What’s the probability of Igor Kurganov and Liv Boeree being together for the next three years? Well, the answer is somewhere between 85% and 92%, according to the duo.

Of course, you can't put an exact number on this prediction but Boeree, an astrophysicist, claims that because they are both professional poker players, "We are used to thinking all kinds of things in terms of probability, even emotional topics.”

For Liv, it’s fundamental to use probabilities in our day-to-day lives. And, especially in relationships, it’s quite important to have a “quantified discussion” about these kinds of emotional topics.

And that’s exactly what the main subject of Boeree’s TEDx conferenceA Number Speaks A Thousand Words” in Manchester was all about. During her 15-minute speech, she had time to discuss and explore the ways we can use probabilities to improve our everyday decision making, and how we can communicate better our uncertainties to each other.

We also got to learn about the last time that Boeree believed in bad luck, which was way back in 2005 when she decided to participate in a game show that taught beginners how to play poker. In one of her first games, she had two aces. Naturally, she put all her chips in the middle but her opponent got really lucky, kicking her out of the game. Liv’s reaction was basically having a complete meltdown in front of the national TV, as she wasn’t quite feeling that losing with 80% probability to win was fine.

From that moment, Liv confessed that poker taught her how to get used to bad luck. For us mere mortals, this sounds really awful, but, in fact, Boeree finds it really useful.

“If you start thinking of all the events that you consider to be unlucky, then actually the chances build up and up until it’s quite likely that one of them happens.” She continued, “While this this sounds kind of depressing, I found that remembering this mathematical fact has helped me manage my expectations better.”

As Boeree puts it, "The world around us is like a card game, and it is ultimately governed by the laws of chance and statistics.”

The world around us is like a card game, and it is ultimately governed by the laws of chance and statistics.

The second part of her speech was focused on how we could improve our way of communicating by talking about certain probabilities, as Igor and Liv did in regards to their relationship.

It is true that unquantified language can cause blunders at any level when we are using vague probabilistic words like probably, frequently or likely. How can we know exactly what that means? Liv’s solution is to simply agree in what these probabilistic words mean. So, for example, is it okay to think that “very likely” is about 90-98% and “rarely” 5-10%? These words can be used in our workplaces, daily life and even in the media.

Watch the rest of the video and see how Boeree proposes that we use the correct probabilistic words, along with more funny anecdotes from her life.

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