The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives

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With the born storyteller's command of narrative and imaginative approach, Leonard Mlodinow vividly demonstrates how our lives are profoundly informed by chance and randomness and how everything from wine ratings and corporate success to school grades and political polls 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 us the tools we need to make more informed decisions. From the classroom to the courtroom and from financial markets to supermarkets, Mlodinow's intriguing and illuminating look at how randomness, chance, and probability affect our daily lives will intrigue, awe, and inspire.

 


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Additional Information

Publisher
Vintage
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Published on
May 13, 2008
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Pages
352
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ISBN
9780307377548
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Language
English
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Genres
Mathematics / Probability & Statistics / General
Science / Chaotic Behavior in Systems
Science / Life Sciences / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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One of Wall Street Journal's Best Ten Works of Nonfiction in 2012
 
New York Times Bestseller

“Not so different in spirit from the way public intellectuals like John Kenneth Galbraith once shaped discussions of economic policy and public figures like Walter Cronkite helped sway opinion on the Vietnam War…could turn out to be one of the more momentous books of the decade.”
—New York Times Book Review
 
"Nate Silver's The Signal and the Noise is The Soul of a New Machine for the 21st century."
—Rachel Maddow, author of Drift

"A serious treatise about the craft of prediction—without academic mathematics—cheerily aimed at lay readers. Silver's coverage is polymathic, ranging from poker and earthquakes to climate change and terrorism."
—New York Review of Books

Nate Silver built an innovative system for predicting baseball performance, predicted the 2008 election within a hair’s breadth, and became a national sensation as a blogger—all by the time he was thirty. He solidified his standing as the nation's foremost political forecaster with his near perfect prediction of the 2012 election. Silver is the founder and editor in chief of the website FiveThirtyEight. 
 
Drawing on his own groundbreaking work, Silver examines the world of prediction, investigating how we can distinguish a true signal from a universe of noisy data. Most predictions fail, often at great cost to society, because most of us have a poor understanding of probability and uncertainty. Both experts and laypeople mistake more confident predictions for more accurate ones. But overconfidence is often the reason for failure. If our appreciation of uncertainty improves, our predictions can get better too. This is the “prediction paradox”: The more humility we have about our ability to make predictions, the more successful we can be in planning for the future.

In keeping with his own aim to seek truth from data, Silver visits the most successful forecasters in a range of areas, from hurricanes to baseball, from the poker table to the stock market, from Capitol Hill to the NBA. He explains and evaluates how these forecasters think and what bonds they share. What lies behind their success? Are they good—or just lucky? What patterns have they unraveled? And are their forecasts really right? He explores unanticipated commonalities and exposes unexpected juxtapositions. And sometimes, it is not so much how good a prediction is in an absolute sense that matters but how good it is relative to the competition. In other cases, prediction is still a very rudimentary—and dangerous—science.

Silver observes that the most accurate forecasters tend to have a superior command of probability, and they tend to be both humble and hardworking. They distinguish the predictable from the unpredictable, and they notice a thousand little details that lead them closer to the truth. Because of their appreciation of probability, they can distinguish the signal from the noise.

With everything from the health of the global economy to our ability to fight terrorism dependent on the quality of our predictions, Nate Silver’s insights are an essential read.
Fooled by Randomness is a standalone book in Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s landmark Incerto series, an investigation of opacity, luck, uncertainty, probability, human error, risk, and decision-making in a world we don’t understand. The other books in the series are The Black Swan, Antifragile, Skin in the Game, and The Bed of Procrustes.

Fooled by Randomness is the word-of-mouth sensation that will change the way you think about business and the world. Nassim Nicholas Taleb–veteran trader, renowned risk expert, polymathic scholar, erudite raconteur, and New York Times bestselling author of The Black Swan–has written a modern classic that turns on its head what we believe about luck and skill.

This book is about luck–or more precisely, about how we perceive and deal with luck in life and business. Set against the backdrop of the most conspicuous forum in which luck is mistaken for skill–the world of trading–Fooled by Randomness provides captivating insight into one of the least understood factors in all our lives. Writing in an entertaining narrative style, the author tackles major intellectual issues related to the underestimation of the influence of happenstance on our lives.

The book is populated with an array of characters, some of whom have grasped, in their own way, the significance of chance: the baseball legend Yogi Berra; the philosopher of knowledge Karl Popper; the ancient world’s wisest man, Solon; the modern financier George Soros; and the Greek voyager Odysseus. We also meet the fictional Nero, who seems to understand the role of randomness in his professional life but falls victim to his own superstitious foolishness.

However, the most recognizable character of all remains unnamed–the lucky fool who happens to be in the right place at the right time–he embodies the “survival of the least fit.” Such individuals attract devoted followers who believe in their guru’s insights and methods. But no one can replicate what is obtained by chance.

Are we capable of distinguishing the fortunate charlatan from the genuine visionary? Must we always try to uncover nonexistent messages in random events? It may be impossible to guard ourselves against the vagaries of the goddess Fortuna, but after reading Fooled by Randomness we can be a little better prepared.

PRAISE FOR FOOLED BY RANDOMNESS:

Named by Fortune One of the Smartest Books of All Time

A Financial Times Best Business Book of the Year

“[Fooled by Randomness] is to conventional Wall Street wisdom approximately what Martin Luther’s ninety-five theses were to the Catholic Church.”
–Malcolm Gladwell, author of Blink

“The book that rolled down Wall Street like a hand grenade.”
–Maggie Mahar, author of Bull! A History of the Boom, 1982—1999

“Fascinating . . . Taleb will grab you.”
–Peter L. Bernstein, author of Capital Ideas Evolving

“Recalls the best of scientist/essayists like Richard Dawkins . . . and Stephen Jay Gould.”
–Michael Schrage, author of Serious Play: How the World’s Best Companies Simulate to Innovate

“We need a book like this. . . . Fun to read, refreshingly independent-minded.”
–Robert J. Shiller, author of Irrational Exuberance

“Powerful . . . loaded with crackling little insights [and] extreme brilliance.”
–National Review
Analyzes Randomness in Major Genetic Processes and Events

No matter how far science advances, the proportion of what is knowable to what is random will remain unchanged, and attempts to ignore this critical threshold are futile at best. With the revolutionary explosion in genetic information discovery, it is crucially important to recognize the underlying limitations of scientific prediction in genetics.

Genetics and Randomness furthers the understanding of the role randomness plays in critical biological processes. The book also navigates the complex nature of genetic uncertainty from different points of view and at various levels of biological organization.

Avoids Unnecessary Technical Details and Specific Terminology

Exploring areas ranging from basic quantum mechanics and molecular genetics to modern evolutionary genetics and the philosophy of mathematics, this well-organized text discusses:

Spontaneity of mutations and their relation to subatomic randomness Deep links between subatomic fluctuations and long-term macroscopic changes in living organisms The multitude of random events that occur during development Segregation, genetic drift, and natural selection

Randomness and uncertainty are not occasional and regretful deviations from the "true" principles upon which life is built. Genetics and Randomness illustrates the ubiquitous nature of randomness as an integral feature of all essential processes, effectively embracing a probabilistic understanding of the phenomena of life.

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