Snowflakes

You are one in a million. A precious snowflake, and you’re totally unique.

What was your reaction to those statements? My guess is that you may think it is hackneyed, untrue and ridiculous. You aren’t unique, there are tons and tons of people just like you. Lets find out exactly how many.

First, lets define a few characteristics here.

1: Gender
2: Race
3: Age Group

For gender, there are two possibilities, for race, lets say 3 (White, Black, Asian) (you could argue a lot about the appropriate number), for age group, lets say six groups (preteen, teen, young adult, adult, middle age, elderly). We could expand further downward (infant, toddler, etc), but you aren’t one of those because you can read.

So as of right now, there are 36 different possible readers taking only 3 characteristics (which of course aren’t the full dimension).

Lets keep adding some values:

4: Political affiliation (3 possibilities liberal, conservative, libertarian)
5: Religion (we’ll go with 6 common possibilities, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Atheist)
6: Nationality (google say 196, but we can differ)
7: Occupational sector (I could argue a lot about these and it depends on how you define these, but lets say 20 different employment sectors)

So now, based on these 4 new characteristics, we have 3*6*196*20, or 70,560, times 36 (from our first three), which gives up 2,540,160.

But we’re not anywhere near done. For fun, lets add the Myers Brigs Categories

8-11 Myers Brigs (Extroverted/Introverted, thinking/feeling, judging/perceiving, sensing/intuiting, or 16 total)

Lets add some more random items:

12: Are you a traditionalist or a trailblazer? (2)
13: Are you high strung or chilled out. (2)
14: Are you career oriented, family oriented, friend oriented, or community oriented (4)
15: Do you get your way or get along? (2)

Ok, lets go back to some more traditional measures:

16: Sexual Orientation (2)
17: Education Level (we’ll say 5, did not finish high school, high school only, some college, college degree, graduate degree)

Ok, now we’ve got 16x2x2x4x2x2x5 which is 5,120. Multiply this by our number above and we get 13,005,619,200. With only 17 criteria, we now define more types of people than there are people in the whole world. So if you’re a young adult white male conservative Christian American financial services professional who is an INTJ, a traditionalist, a high strung community oriented get-along straight college graduate, you can say that you are unique. Actually you can’t, because that’s who I am.

Now, there’s two major complaints I anticipate. The first is that my categories above weren’t fair because your religion/race/whatever wasn’t on there. Well, that just means you are even more unique than above, you truly are special.

The second, and much more relevant piece, is that many of the above are correlated with one another. Take me, for instance, a straight white christian male. All of those are somewhat to heavily correlated with being conservative, which, no surprise, I am (kind of). Which means that, although there are in fact more categories than there are people to fill them, people aren’t randomly assigned, and its very likely that there a bunch of categories with more than one person in them, some of them probably numerous (perhaps mine has a quite a few). But it isn’t many; lets go by my example again.

First, lets start off with Americans, which we’ll say there are 300 million of.
Half are men, which gets down to 150 million.
My age group has 20.3% of the population (I’m defining young adult as 20 – 34), that’s 30.45 million people.
We’ll save 78.5% are christian, of which half are conservative (total of 39.25%). Brings us to 11.95 million.

4% of people work in financial services, and we’ll say that all of them have at least an associates degree. According to wikipedia, 41.89 % of the population had a associates or bachelors degree and 11.77% had advanced degrees. We’ll assume that the ratio of advanced to non advanced degree holders is the same in the financial services industry as it is outside of it, which means that 2.88% of people in the US are financial services professionals without an advanced degree. This now brings us to 344,160 people are like me, in the first 6 categories.

According to google, INTJs are 2% of the population, but more common in men, (of which I am), and we’ll say that in other various ways I’m more correlated with the value, so to pick a number we’ll say 8% of people with the above characteristics are INTJs.

Of these, lets say 80% are traditionalist, 70% are high strung, 40% are community oriented, 75% get along and they’re all straight.

Which means that, in my bucket, there are perhaps 4,625 people. Which may be a lot, but its not too many. I’m sure there are bigger buckets, something with Indian Hindu working in agriculture probably has many more, but again, we’re only talking about 17 different characteristics. I haven’t mentioned whether you like history, whether you are a poet, if you play an instrument, if you prefer the country to the city, the mountains to the beach, the summer to the winter, whether you run, bike, play a team sport. If you like science fiction, if you watch reality TV, if you are in to fashion, or follow sports. If you do drugs, drink alcohol. If you’re in a weird subculture.

All of these are important things, things which matter, which help describe who a person is. And I haven’t even mentioned whether you’re married or have kids yet.

Combine all of these, and while I suppose its still possible there are “Buckets” which might have more than one person in them, I imagine that, just within these characteristics, the vast majority of humanity has a bucket entirely to themselves. And I can go on regarding these characteristics, I’m sure I can name another 20 or 30 categories easily, and there are numerous subcategories within these groupings.

So what is the point? First of all, yes, you truly are unique, there is only one you, and we’ve just proved it, with math.

Sometimes, we compare things to other things. Just the other day, I contrasted the US political climate to the number of original movies coming out. That was a comparison I made, because of my outlook and experience. There are comparisons, accomplishments and insights that only you can make. You are special, and I mean that in the best possible way.

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