Improbability Principle

I recently came across the fascinating world of Professor David Hand at my alma mater, Imperial College.

The work in question is the Improbability Principle: the concept that highly improbable events are commonplace.

You can watch a lecture by him on the topic here:

From his work on statistics, some fascinating real-world lessons can be learned.

The 5 Laws of the Improbability Principle

1. Law of Inevitability

One of the set of all possible outcomes must occur.

2. Law of Truly Large Numbers

An outcome which has a tiny chance of occurring becomes almost certain if you give it enough opportunities.

3. Law of Selection

We can make events as likely as we want if we choose after the event.

4. Law of the Probability Lever

if we slightly change the circumstances or assumptions we can dramatically change the probabilities.

5. Law of Near Enough

if you expand what you mean by a coincidence or improbable event sufficiently, you can make it as likely as you want.

Bonus: Borel’s Law

Professor Hand also refers to another law known as Borel’s Law. This law states that when the probability of an event is extremely small, one should act as if nothing will happen.


These laws are subtle but powerful. When viewed together, they tell us a lot about the way we view the world and how it can be manipulated.