The Law of Large Numbers

As the size of a sample increases, its average gets closer to the average of the whole population.


Imagine betting on a coin toss.

You know the odds are 50/50.

How confident would you feel betting on heads showing up no more than 55% of the time in:

  • 2 tosses (= no more than 1 time)
  • 10 tosses (= no more than 5 times)
  • 100 tosses (= no more than 55 times)
  • 1,000 tosses (= no more than 550 times)
  • 10,000 tosses (= no more than 5,500 times)
  • …?

What does your gut say?

For 2 tosses, it feels like a gamble. Same for 10. Maybe even 100.

But 10,000? That seems like a safe bet.

But why? Each toss still has the same 50/50 odds.

Here's where the Law of Large Numbers (LOLN) kicks in.

The more you repeat an action, the closer your results align with the expected distribution. In other words, as your sample size grows, the average outcome increasingly mirrors the overall average.

Tossing a coin 10 times, you might see heads pop up anywhere from 30% to 70% of the time. But at 10,000 tosses? You're almost certain to hit between 49.7% and 50.3% heads.

Ramp it up to 10 million tosses, and heads will show up 50% of the time, give or take 0.01%.

Why Does It Matter?

  1. Predictability in Chaos: This is why insurance companies can accurately predict their losses. Large numbers smooth out individual randomness, making averages reliable.
  2. Investing Insights: For investors, it's a heads-up. Short-term fluctuations can deceive. True patterns and insights emerge over larger datasets.
  3. Business Applications: In marketing and customer behavior, LOLN guides you to make decisions based on broader trends, not just one-off events.
  4. Personal Life: It teaches us patience and the importance of the big picture. Quick judgments based on a few instances can lead you astray.

To apply LOLN effectively, always consider your data set's size. Are your decisions based on a broad sample or just a handful of cases?

The answer can be the difference between a smart choice and a shot in the dark.

In short, the Law of Large Numbers isn't just a statistical rule. It's a lens for clearer understanding, smarter decision-making, and balancing chance with predictability.

Here are 3 other concepts you might enjoy:

The Streetlight Effect

The 4 Pillars of Self Development

False Dichotomies