“How many of the 4,063 people in the survey could wear such an approximately average uniform? The answer is zero.”
[Humble PI: A Comedy of Maths Errors, Matt Parker]
An average is the simplest statistic to measure the characteristics of data; just add up all the values of data and divide it by the number of data. This simple calculation has been widely used to set a standard for assessment such as average earning, average height, or average life expectancy. Statistically, the average is vulnerable to an outlier. Moreover, the average does not give us information about the distribution of data. That’s why statistical analysis usually provides the average and its standard deviation for sample data. Still, these two values are not enough to represent data due to a large variability (e.g. using any values of average and of standard deviation, we can draw a dinosaur silhouette). Hence, you should choose the right statistic for a clear understanding of the data.
Then, can we say the average is the best number for representing our group or society? The answer is NO. The average man is not a real person and also not a standard for us. In the book “The End of Average“, the author, Todd Rose, showed the failure of our education based on the statistical average. An average is just a number calculated without any context. So, we don’t need to set the average as our standard for success or failure. The annual performance rate cannot measure your success rate in your life. The academic GPA cannot give you the grade of your life. Please don’t follow a phantom of the average. Keep pace with your own plan in your life. After being an outlier in success, please tell us your amazing story, not just give a number.