"An engaging book, beautifully read by Lloyd James"
Mlodinow is inspired; he finds stories, analogies, mysteries and histories that make the development of probability theory fascinating. I really enjoyed the book. The mathematics and the concepts were so easy to follow - building so solidly from step to step. I think I truly understand probability better now than I did after years of university statistics. Without (visible) effort Mlodinow has gifted me with understanding of the heart of probability - without that slightly panicked feeling of groping over it's slippery, mathematical surface. Seriously.
Lloyd James performance is fantastic. I love his voice, his pace, his modulation. Lloyd adds greatly to Mlodinow's intent to make this a joy and a conversation. (Loyd's voice niggled at me for ages, so certain was I that I had heard it before. Finally I twigged that he was the gent of the Russian accent performing Heinlein's "The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress"! Another excellent job.)
I love listening to books when cycling, paddleboarding, etc but I press pause when I need to concentrate. Its safer & I don't lose the plot!
"Thought-provoking"
Heads or tails?
There were no characters. This is a non-fictional popular science book
There were no scenes. My favourite part was the section concerning the 3 doors. I was astonished by the fact that one's intuition can be so misleading in assessing probability. Fascinating.
I wouldn't say 'moved', because, as mentioned this was not a novel! But several sections were interesting and informative.
Overall I would say this was a really good book. The minor weaknesses were that it focused bit too much on the history of probability and that at times it was a bit of a 'lesson'. However, I would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in probability/randomness
"Prob. Theory not "How Randomness ...""
This book in a poor choice for anyone who wants to learn "How Randomness Rules Our Lives." It is basically the history and development of Probability Theory with a few (good) examples of how it may be used to better understand some things in the world around us.
I already understood and liked Probability Theory, and wanted to learn "How Randomness Rules Our Lives." This book didn't deliver much in that direction.
Family father, neuroscientist, and non-fiction audiobook addict.
"To increase your successes, increase your failures"
This was a great book. It had just the right balance of anecdotes, mathematics, scientific studies and history to offer the reader a comprehensive and informative, yet thoroughly enjoyable introduction to the field of randomness. As the author rightly points out, again and again, people are blind when it comes to the role that chance or randomness plays in their lives, which is in fact very big. We tend construct our life narrative around situations where we made a decision that seemed to be crucial, which makes it seem as if we have been in the driving seat for much of our life. Still, most people can come up with seemingly random events that shaped the rest of their life. For example, I would never have met my wife had I not turned down a job one summer 10 years ago and I would not have ended up as a scientist had my grades been good enough to become a psychologist. If you would change just a few minor details in my history, and I might have lived a completely different life today.
Mlodinow begins the book by discussing some real life examples where people often fail to see the underlying mathematical truths. When a company does well, a CEO is rewarded with sometimes ridiculous bonuses, only to be fired the next year because the company suddenly did fare so well. This is the case despite the fact that fluctuations in the market are inescapable. The same is true in the world of sports where managers are frequently fired following dips in form which necessarily occurs if luck is a factor which it always is in sports.
After this introduction Mlodinow goes through the history of probability theory. I was surprised to learn that the Greek really didn’t get probability. They were excellent when it came to mathematical axioms and deducting knowledge, however, they apparently thought uncertainty had no place in maths and therefore ignored the field entirely. More than a thousand years passed before a man began to investigate the rules of probability in the mid 16th century. His name was Cardano and he was, of course, a gambler. With some very elementary knowledge regarding uncertainty, Cardano won lots of money which he used to finance his studies in Medicine.
Mlodinow continuous to move through history, while also making sure that the reader understands the theories that are being developed. Among others one encounters Galileo, Pascal, Bernoulli and Laplace who all worked on probability in different ways. One learns about the normal curve, chaos theory and bayesian statistics. Again, everything is written in an engaging yet simple fashion and I personally felt I learnt a lot even though I have studied statistics at University.
This book also deserves credit for being the first to explain the Monty Hall problem in a way that made me feel I really get it. Imagine you are a contestant on TV show, there are three doors and behind one of them is a car, while the other two doors have goats behind them. You pick one door (that you don’t open), then the TV host open one of the other two doors behind which there is a goat. At this point you have to choose to open the door you picked initially, or switch to the other door. What do you do? Even though more than 90% in polls, as well as thousands of mathematicians, passionately believed that it did not matter whether or not you switched, the correct answer is in fact that you will double your chance of winning if you switch to the other door. As Mlodinow explains you really have to guess which of the following two scenarios you are in:
The door you initially picked was the correct one (chance one third). If you switch you will find a goat.
You initially picked the wrong door (chance two thirds). Since the host will always open a door with a goat the correct one is the one the host did not open and which you did not pick. If you switch you will win.
In other words, if you picked the wrong door initially you will win if you switch and since it is more likely to pick the wrong door than the right door your chances are better if you switch.
In the last part of the book, Mlodinow return to the role that randomness plays in our life. After he has convincingly demonstrated how great this role is he arrives to the question of how one should act in the face of such uncertainty. Given that our successes or failures to a large extent are a result of random events, should we just stop trying? No! Mlodinow eventually arrives at the quote that is the title of my review. If you want to increase your success rate, you should increase your failure rate. Those who succeed in the end tend to be those who try again and again and again i.e. those who throw the dice over and over again will, eventually, end up with a six. Having read this book, I am determined to go out in the world and start failing. Thank you Mlodinow for the inspiration and for this excellent book!
"Excellent introduction to statistics & probability"
It was very interesting. As some other readers have pointed out he spends a lot of time covering the history of the development of modern statistics. For someone like me, who was not familiar with this, it was a very interesting listen. In fact, I might listen to it again sometime to try and get a better handle on who invented what. There are a lot of names to remember in a single listen. But even without remembering names and dates, it was still very interesting to learn how the field developed and what kind of thinking lead these historical thinkers to develop such powerful mathematical tools.
No I haven't. But this was pretty good.
I wouldn't say that really... but it kept me entertained enough that I wanted to come back to it.
"Excellent book! Enjoyed every minute!"
I found this book absolutely fascinating. It's the kind of book that makes you think about things differently, and I found that when I wasn't listening to it, I spent a lot of time thinking through the things I had heard last time I listened. The book is great, the narrator is great, if you're a fan of science, and of learning new, mind-expanding things you hadn't thought about before, read this!
Traveler
"Great to refresh knowledge"
I have a solid background on probabilities and statistics and technically I didn't learn a lot from the book but the examples, a lot of them!, are the best.
Explain probabilities, normal distribution and variance without a graphics, whiteboard or paper to people without mathematical background is really difficult and this book with very good examples does it!
Excellent reading for everybody.
Carlos.
"Statistics Class"
This book is like statistics class. I did not think it really talked about how randomness rules our lives. I think Malcolm Gladwell's book, Outliers, is better for this topic.
"Interesting but...."
its was a bit technical, lots of math which was rather hard to follow while listening. I would therefore suggest reading this one instead of listening to it.
"Too detailed to be an enjoyable audio read"
Basically about how poorly we all understand the true probabilities of the events in the world around us. Mlodinow gives a lot of specific examples and explanations to show how what we perceive to be the possibility that something will happen is often very far off from its true probability. Interesting concept to start with, but it quickly began sounding way too much like my high school prob and stat class. This made my eyes glaze over, and I found myself wishing some sort of bell would ring so I could quit thinking about it. Ultimately, it made my brain hurt, so I quit after a little over three hours. I didn't realize how specific this book was going to get, and I kept wishing I could flip back a page and reread. I find this annoying to do repeatedly in an audiobook; I think this book is one that is better read in the flesh, especially if you are at all a visual learner. I've been on a reading binge lately, and this is only the second book I've quit reading out of about 20 (print and audio) in the past two months. It was just too detail-oriented for me to enjoy as an audiobook.