For example, I enjoy creative writing. I'd like to estimate my chances of ever getting published. If it's low, e.g. 1%, I just won't bother sending out manuscripts. Instead I'll write solely for enjoyment.
A panel of authors once said that 10% of aspiring writers get published. This number is not helpful. The pertinent data would be a set of writing samples at various levels of ability. For each, it would aggregate the percentage of authors who eventually got published.
Burgeoning writers can then look for a level similar to their own (or ask friends to rate them) and get the associated probability.
Another example is marriage and divorce. Supposedly there are well-known factors that influence the probability of staying together. The well-touted 50% divorce rate is skewed by shotgun weddings, according to a story I heard. If you're not marrying due to unexpected pregnancy, your divorce probability falls below 50%. But it rises if you live together first. Your marriage also has a much better chance if the ratio of positive to negative interactions exceeds 5:1.
It would be nice if there exists a service where people could pay money to fill out a bunch of information about them and their significant other, and get a customized probability score. They might decide to ignore it, but at least curious people can get an assessment.
Another example is startups. 90% of startups fail. Are these startups with great founders and innovative product ideas? Or is it skewed by people who caught entrepeneur fever, without accompanying skills?
Stats are good. More detailed stats would be better.
Some comments are along the lines of "I'm sure if J. K. Rowling knew her chances of getting published were very low , maybe she'd would have never written Harry Potter."
This completely misses the point of the spectrum-odds. J. K. Rowling is an amazing writer. She is a master of suspense. She weaves a spellbinding world. If she used the spectrum system I talked about, she would probably find that while overall odds of publishing are very low, the J.K. Rowling-specific odds are actually high.
Dan's comment captures this well:
Many of the comments are supporting ignorance. "You probably won't succeed, so it's best that you don't know the odds." Ridiculous: if the overall odds are against you, all the more reason to know the conditional odds.
Another set of comments imply "Don't give up writing just because the odds of publishing are low." Who said anything about giving up writing? If you actually read my post above, I said:
I'd like to estimate my chances of ever getting published. If it's low, e.g. 1%, I just won't bother sending out manuscripts. Instead I'll write solely for enjoyment.
The time spent on printing out manuscripts, binding them, and mailing them could be spent on doing more writing.
Why do we promote making blind decisions? Instead of saying, "The odds are low, so you should avoid discovering what they are." we should be saying, "The odds are low, and you should find out exactly what they are, so you can make a rational choice on whether you will try anyway."