# Why is statistics useful when many things that matter are one shot things?

I don’t know if it’s just me, but I am very skeptical of statistics in general. I can understand it in dice games, poker games, etc. Very small, simple, mostly self-contained repeated games are fine. For example, a coin landing on its edge is small enough to accept the probability that landing heads or tails is ~50%.

Playing a \$10 game of poker aiming for a 95% win is fine. But what if your entire life savings + more is dependent on you hitting a win or not? How would knowing that you’d win in 95% of the time in that situation will help me at all? Expected value doesn’t help much there.

Other examples include a life-threatening surgery. How does that help knowing that it is 51% survival rate versus 99% survival rate given existing data? In both cases, I don’t think it will matter to me what the doctor tells me, and I would go for it. If actual data is 75%, he might as well tell me (barring ethics and law), that there is a 99.99999% chance of survival so I’d feel better. In other words, existing data doesn’t matter except binomially. Even then, it doesn’t matter if there is a 99.99999% survival rate, if I end up dying from it.

Also, earthquake probability. It doesn’t matter if a strong earthquake happened every x (where x > 100) years on average. I have no idea if an earthquake will happen ever in my lifetime. So why is it even useful information?

A less serious example, say, 100% of the places I’ve been to that I love are in the Americas, indifferent to 100% of the places I’ve been to in Europe, and hate 100% of the places that I have been to in Asia. Now, that by no means mean that I wouldn’t find a place that I love in Asia on my next trip or hate in Europe or indifferent in America, just by the very nature that the statistics doesn’t capture all of the information I need, and I probably can never capture all of the information I need, even if I have traveled to over x% of all of those continents. Just because there are unknowns in the 1-x% of those continents that I haven’t been to. (Feel free to replace the 100% with any other percentage).

I understand that there is no way to brute force everything and that you have to rely on statistics in many situations, but how can we believe that statistics are helpful in our one shot situation, especially when statistics basically do not extrapolate to outlier events?

Any insights to get over my skepticism of statistics?