The rise and fall of your favorite movie star or the most reviled CEO - in fact, all our destinies - reflects chance as much as planning and innate abilities. Even Roger Maris, who beat Babe Ruth's single season home-run record, was in all likelihood not great but just lucky.
How could it have happened that a wine was given five out of five stars by one journal and called the worst wine of the decade by another? Wine ratings, school grades, political polls, and many other things in daily life are less reliable than we believe. By showing us the true nature of chance and revealing the psychological illusions that cause us to misjudge the world around us, Mlodinow gives fresh insight into what is really meaningful and how we can make decisions based on a deeper truth. From the classroom to the courtroom, from financial markets to supermarkets, from the doctor's office to the Oval Office, Mlodinow's insights will intrigue, awe, and inspire.
Offering listeners not only a tour of randomness, chance and probability but also a new way of looking at the world, this original, unexpected journey reminds us that much in our lives is about as predictable as the steps of a stumbling man afresh from a night at a bar.
©2008 Leonard Mlodinow; (P)2008 Gildan Media Corp
"A wonderful guide to how the mathematical laws of randomness affect our lives." (Stephen Hawking)
"If you're strong enough to have some of your favorite assumptions challenged, please listen to The Drunkard's Walk....a history, explanation, and exaltation of probability theory....The results are mind-bending." (Fortune)
mostly nonfiction listener
The author, a physicist at Cal Tech, is among those rare academics who both write beautifully, and can manage to make complex explanations understandable. This book definitely changed how I understand some fundamental aspects of my life and the lives of those around me, as getting a handle on randomness and probability (which again, our brains don't seem to be built easily to accomplish), helps illuminate some of the fundamental errors in judgment that I seem to make all too often.
This is a really great book. A much more in depth and fascinating look at how our lives are governed by chance than any of the recent popular titles that claim to be about the subject. It's read beautifully too with just the right tone of sardonic humour. Some of the ideas did not sink in as I have it on while I am working...I am just going to have to listen to it again
This is another book that discusses how randomness, or nonrandomness surrounds us and makes the case it might be in our best interest to know when certain events are random and when they are not.
The book discusses the use and basic principles of probabillity without getting into the mathematical details - although there are 1 or 2 sections where he explains things in some detail (with words, not equations). He also provides a bit of interesting background on the people that developed the concepts. I am a PhD scientist and found this background information delightful and felt it added something to the principles that were discovered.
There are some very interesting examples that he supplies...for instance, if you are told a family has 2 children and one of them is a girl, what are the odds that the other is a girl...this seems straight forward but what if you are told one of the girls is named 'Florida' -- does that change the odd? The answer is yes - but you need to read the book to find out why...Many other interesting examples and lessons were taught.
A good book for those who want to know when to attribute the good performance of a company to the CEO or if it's just chance...if you're team is losing, should you change managers? Which is the more effective teaching tool, the carrot or the stick? These any other questions are approached from the view of randomness.
I picked this up because it was featured on the Audible home page and I had a couple of extra credits. I was looking for something different to listen to when walking the dog and waiting in airports. I had taken advanced math in high school, but, to be honest, I only excelled in the courses due to an excellent teacher (Thank you, Mrs. Claybrook), and then I stopped doing any kind of real algebra, trig, or calculus. At this point in my life, my brain stops working as soon as I hear numbers being tossed around.
However, this book dealt with theory and history rather than functions and numbers. In the end, it was a very entertaining listen; chronicling the development of random theory from probability theory. Living in the Vegas area, I found the passages on gambling very engaging and interesting. I'll grant that the subject matter is not one that everyone will embrace, but this "math" book has changed a few notions of this "non-math" person.
If you have ANY interest in events, how and why they happen, and how are (mis)understanding of the forces that shape those events occur then you will LOVE this book!
A part-time buffoon and ersatz scholar specializing in BS, pedantry, schmaltz and cultural coprophagia.
Sits on my shelf next to all those other soft-serve pop economics, behavioral economics, science and statistics books (think Freakonomics, SuperFreakonomics, Predicitably Irrational, Gang Leader for a Day & Sway). From my perspective Drunkard's Walk is more coherent in theme and better written than most (the ones I named are all ones I feel are top shelf, pop soft-science). Anyway, a very good narrative introduction to both randomness and statistics.
I'm not much of a reader but I am a great listener. I like to listen to an audiobook before I decide its worth buying the book in print.
It can be a hard listen but it still has a good message if you can decipher it. Hint its in the main explanation of what the books about. You really need an analytic mind or be in the mood to follow the scientific explanations he gives.
Only a few audiobooks are so good that I'll circle the block continuously at the end of a drive home, unwilling to end the "read" by parking in the driveway. This is one. The material is so good, so well read, and so germane to the current world that it should practically be required (and pleasurable) reading for all.
This book is an excellent history lesson into the foundation and principles of probability and statistics. Great applications of randomness including a section on Charles Perrow's Natural Accident Theory which is very well done. Highly recommended for anyone interested in statistics.
Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good.
A better title for this book might be "How Humans Misunderstand Randomness". If you want to feel nervous about an upcoming performance review at work or day in court, Mlodinow can help you do so. Here, he shows how non-intuitive statistics and probability can be, and how people biased by their natural desire to attribute definite causes to events tend to discount the winds of chance. Consider how "brilliant" CEOs are often hired for enormous salaries, then fired a few years later when the company doesn't make the profits expected. But how much control does a typical CEO really have over all the factors that determine a company's near-term success? And consider how obvious the "clues" to Japan's WWII attack on Pearl Harbor looked in hindsight, but how they actually wouldn't have jumped out to analysts among all the other "noise" in the intelligence network. (These themes might be familiar to those who've read Nassim Taleb's book on unpredictability, The Black Swan.)
On the other hand, when we *do* think about randomness, we often have incorrect expectations about its properties. Gamblers don't always realize that it's not unlikely for a roulette wheel to favor a certain color over many spins, even when the roulette wheel is behaving correctly. Or, think about some of the mistakes the legal system has made. An example is the couple in 1960s Los Angeles who were convicted of an attack on the basis of witness testimony that reported two people with similar appearances and a similar car. The prosecution cited the one-in-a-million odds that the criminals could be anyone else. Yet, they made a few critical mistakes: the variables weren't independent and Los Angeles is a city of multiple millions: the real odds were closer to two-in-three. Yikes.
The Drunkard's Walk includes, along the way, a compelling history of the science of chance, covering figures such as Pascal, Bayes, Laplace, Brown (of Brownian Motion fame), and Einstein. Though I've studied probability and statistics before, as part of my college coursework, I find them to be fun subjects, and enjoyed the refresher (if not so much the reminders that our legal system is flawed). A bit of a nerdy book, but perfectly engaging.
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