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A year of uncertainty and confidence

“We’ll all grasp that a 15 percent chance of something happening isn’t 0 percent, as any seasoned Dungeons & Dragons fan can tell you. It’s roughly the equivalent of rolling a 1 — or any other single number — on a six-sided die.”

2019 will be the year when both journalists and their audiences will finally understand that most numbers we see in the media aren’t precise, but often come surrounded by a fuzzy cloud of uncertainty. We’ll all accept that this is just the way the world works. We may even come up with .

In 2019, readers won’t that swings based on random jittering. Also, journalists will stop reporting tiny variations of indicators that aren’t very accurate to begin with without putting them in their historical context.

In 2019, we’ll all grasp that a , as any seasoned Dungeons & Dragons fan can tell you. It’s roughly the equivalent of rolling a 1 — or any other single number — on a six-sided die. A is the chance of scoring 5 or 6 when rolling for damage with a short sword, enough to kill a goblin before it strikes back.

In 2019, most people will finally be able to as a range of possible paths of the center of a storm, and not as an area under threat.

In 2019, opinion editors will chastise columnists who still think that “error” in statistics is synonymous with “mistake,” or that means that all models are wrong. These editors will grasp that statistical uncertainty is always connected to a confidence level, and that the fact that should increase the confidence we have in them.

In 2019, we’ll all learn to be less certain about our beliefs. We may even who explain that the best way to become aware of our knowledge gaps is to try to explain our opinions to others without taking logical leaps or relying on arguments from authority. We’ll be humbled by our many failures at these attempts.

Needless to say, I don’t have full confidence in any of these predictions, but I do hope they’ll become true.

is the Knight Chair in Visual Journalism at the University of Miami.

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