The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives

The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives

3.8 69
by Leonard Mlodinow
     
 

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ISBN-10: 0375424040

ISBN-13: 9780375424045

Pub. Date: 05/13/2008

Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

In this irreverent and illuminating book, acclaimed writer and scientist Leonard Mlodinow shows us how randomness, change, and probability reveal a tremendous amount about our daily lives, and how we misunderstand the significance of everything from a casual conversation to a major financial setback. As a result, successes and failures in life are often attributed to

Overview

In this irreverent and illuminating book, acclaimed writer and scientist Leonard Mlodinow shows us how randomness, change, and probability reveal a tremendous amount about our daily lives, and how we misunderstand the significance of everything from a casual conversation to a major financial setback. As a result, successes and failures in life are often attributed to clear and obvious cases, when in actuality they are more profoundly influenced by chance.

How could it have happened that a wine was given five out of five stars, the highest rating, in one journal and in another it was called the worst wine of the decade? Mlodinow vividly demonstrates how 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 change 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 readers 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 fresh from a night at the bar.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780375424045
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
05/13/2008
Pages:
272
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.50(d)

Table of Contents


Prologue     ix
Peering through the Eyepiece of Randomness     3
The Laws of Truths and Half-Truths     21
Finding Your Way through a Space of Possibilities     41
Tracking the Pathways to Success     60
The Dueling Laws of Large and Small Numbers     81
False Positives and Positive Fallacies     104
Measurement and the Law of Errors     124
The Order in Chaos     146
Illusions of Patterns and Patterns of Illusion     169
The Drunkard's Walk     192
Acknowledgments     221
Notes     223
Index     239

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Drunkard's Walk 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 69 reviews.
strano More than 1 year ago
this book on statistics is just too complicated for the aver. reader. any book on stats should be generous with many charts or graphics. very hard to read, even though i'm a seasoned statistician i find it hard to follow. i expected a lot more. only good for maybe some professionals but not just general public.
SFlibres More than 1 year ago
Just finished this book and learned alot of interesting new ideas regarding the role of probability/chance in our lives. Found it fascinating as a physician, follower of my IRA investments, and as a mom. Ideas are laid out in a concise organized fashion. They are illustrated by a combination of anecdotes and more mathematical explanations which are pretty painless. It does not set out to be a comprehensive textbook on the idea of randomness, but to introduce and explain it to lay people such as myself. If you've enjoyed any of Gladwell Malcolm's or Simon Singh's books, you should definitely try this one!
Jan-Dominik-Gunkel More than 1 year ago
Leonard Mlodinow wrote an easy to read guide to influences of chance in our everyday life and shows how to benefit and how to evade unnecessary misfortunes.
The author explains all the necessary theoretical groundwork of stochastics and statistics 101 in a simple manner without employing any formulas. The latter makes the book accessible to anyone who is not too inclined towards mathematics, but slows reading for those knowledgeable in the field. Furthermore, he introduces the propositions in their historical context, thereby giving a catchy overview of the people and places involved.
The examples he has picked are from a wide range of everyday situations, e.g., baseball, box-office performance, cancer in the vicinity of nuclear power plants, casino gambling, crime scenes, executive performance, gender guessing of twins, lotteries, medical diagnoses, Pearl Harbor, wine tastings, etc. These vivid illustrations raise the awareness of the random impacts in the reader¿s surroundings - influences that Mlodinow shows are generally under- or overestimated beacuse the human intuition is incapable of truly conceiving randomness.
After reading this book you will have learnt three things:
1. Theory to do all sorts of calculations of randomness
2. Historical and biographical knowledge of great mathematicians
3. How randomness rules your life and what you can do to succeed anyway
The only downside of the book trying to convey all those three messages is that you should not expect 220 pages filled with ¿How Randomness Rules Our Lives¿. (Therefore, it is a four-star book for me. However, once you know this - before the purchase - it is a five star book. That¿s how expectations influence or perceptions; see around p. 133 in the book.)
The last 16 pages are dedicated references to other works that allow the interested reader to dig deep into the scientific realm of the topic.

Enjoy the book!
Jan Dominik Gunkel
M_L_Gooch_SPHR More than 1 year ago
I have spent a great portion of my life observing the success (and sometimes failure) of using SPC in the workplace. This realm has been used and abused under many names such as TQM, Continuous Improvement, etc. What has always escaped me was the ability to use statistics to predict a supervisor or manager's success. Indeed, it may well be the most frustrating aspect of my career in human resources and production management.

Leonard Mlodinow provides great insight into the relationship between talent and success. While I have always believed in a person being in the right place at the right time, this book reinforces and bolsters the evidence that chance plays a greater role than what we suspect.

The organization I currently work for is in the throes of bankruptcy. In the last few weeks, a very intelligent, loyal, and competent CEO resigned (?) and has been replaced by another intelligent and competent CEO. He was `swamped by the effect of the uncontrollable elements of the system' as written in the book. As pointed out on page 188, the board made a change in management due to an `illusion' of control over chance events. To actually see it and then to read an exact prediction in a book tells me we should heed the work of this author. He knows of which he writes.

I am really interested in his `unequal influence' section and plan to do more experimental validation of this phenomenon in the near future.

This book is relevant, compelling, authoritative and well-researched. I would recommend it to anyone in the field of business.

I hope you find this review helpful.

Michael L. Gooch, SPHR - Author of Wingtips with Spurs Cowboy Wisdom for Today's Business Leaders.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fascinating, fun review of history, mathematics, human nature, and how things come together in life.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
When i lesrned these subjects in school we learned the analytical techniques. The fun of this book is the everyday applications and the charming anecdotes. Also the broad overview and comparison of probability and statistics and the historical development is a great component of the book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed Feynman's Rainbow by the same author, and this book is good too. It does a good review of the history of the study of randomness and has interesting little stories related to all the protagonists.
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