Liberal Arts Blog — The Bezos 70% Rule, 108X re-Visited, Orion of the Seven Curves

Liberal Arts Blog — Monday is the Joy of Math, Statistics, Shapes, and Numbers Day

Today’s topic — The Bezos 70% Rule, 108X re-Visited, Orion of the Seven Curves

This week was a super math week. Three big quasi-epiphanies. Did you ever have a math epiphany? If so, please share. If you have ever made a list of the most important, the most beautiful, or the most useful mathematical curves ever, please don’t hoard it. Reminder: Orion, to me at least, is defined by seven stars. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.

THE BEZOS 70% RULE: a spin on the First Aphorism of Hippocrates

1. “Most decisions should probably be made with somewhere around 70% of the information you wish you had.” (Bezos)

2. “If you wait for 90%, you’re probably being too slow.” (Bezos)

3. This is modern, quantitative spin on the ancient wisdom incarnated in the most important paragraph ever written, namely the the First Aphorism of Hippocrates.

NB: “Art is long, but life is short, the opportunity fleeting, experience delusive, judgment therefore difficult.” (Hippocrates) The second aphorism is also worth etching in your brain and sticking on your refrigerator: “The physician must not only do the right thing himself but make sure the patient, the attendants, and the externals cooperate.”


1. For years I thought the Hindu idea of saying the Gayatri mantra 108X a day was positively nuts. I mean, come on.

2. Isn’t the Islamic idea of praying 5X a day more realistic?

3. Then I remembered that Muslims are supposed to say the “Bismillah” and the “Alhamdullilah” before and after every single one of their daily activities. That might in fact add up to 108X depending how finely you parse your day.

NB: Then I thought. How many times per day do I slouch? how many times does a negative, self-destructive thought enter my mind? put differently how many times do I lose it in some little way? or in the language of 3rd grade Catholic religion class, how many times does a little devil whisper in my ear? how many times could I use a little guardian angel? Oh, I get it now. 108X is about right.

ORION OF THE SEVEN CURVES (from Gauss to Pareto to Rosling)

1. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a good diagram ten thousand, and a great one a billion, what, oh what, are the seven greatest diagrams of them all?

2. Specifically, what are the seven greatest mathematical curves of them all? Greatness defined by most relevant as guides to how to live day to day and how to think as a citizen of the world. In short, the curves with the most powerful lessons as to to how to be the best person you can be.

3. Early last Friday morning I came up with seven: the Bell Curve (aka the Gaussian curve), the Pareto distribution (aka the 80/20 rule), the Supply/Demand Curve (aka “the invisible hand”), the Heckman Curve (aka the sooner the better), the Laffer Curve (aka Ibn Kaldun curve), the Flow Graph of Anxiety v Boredom (Cikszentmihalyi), and the Rosling Curve (lifespan versus income versus time over 200 years with countries plotted as bubbles)

NB: The message of this Orion of the Seven Curves is in a sense seven riffs on the “The Serenity Prayer” of Reinhold Niebuhr — “Give me the courage to change what can be changed, the serenity to accept what can not be changed, and the wisdom to know the difference.” (There are many versions.)

Ars longa, vita brevis

All Companies Should Live by the Jeff Bezos 70 Percent Rule

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Hans Rosling’s 200 Countries, 200 Years, 4 Minutes — The Joy of Stats — BBC Four

The best stats you’ve ever seen | Hans Rosling

Last three years of posts organized thematically:

PDF with headlines — Google Drive


Please share the coolest thing you learned this week related to math, statistics, or numbers in general. Or, even better, the coolest or most important thing you learned in your life related to math.

This is your chance to make someone else’s day. And to consolidate in your memory something you might otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply than otherwise about something dear to your heart. Continuity is key to depth of thought.