Compounding & Cumulative Negative Odds

When we talk about the power of compounding, this usually is a discussion about finance and why it is good to save earlier in life. I prefer to think about compounding in terms of skills. Time spent learning new things tends to help you with learning new things, and it helps deepen specific topic areas, such as understanding the underlying technology of the Internet.

But, there’s another aspect of compounding that people often try not to think about, cumulative odds of some negative outcome. For example, nuclear war:

I saw this graph in this tweet.

To put that 1% of nuclear war in a more personal context, if you use the Social Security Actuarial Life Table for 2017, you reach a 1% chance of dying once you reach the age of 59. Your odds of making it to 59 years of age? It’s just over 85%. It’s not something that’s intuitive if you just focus on the small percentages by year.