Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Book: Against The Gods by Peter Bernstein

I read this book in Kindle form in January of 2014.

Why did I choose to read this book? Normally I choose business topics simply to learn about certain area. In this case I saw an ad for this book, about probability analysis and risk, which to the unfamiliar it might sound boring. I decided to try it because I might learn something interesting, and the book was much better than I expected.

The biggest impact this book had on me is that it explains the concept of luck as something less magical and more practical, using narrative, examples and biographies of famous people I didn't even know about.

One of the interesting parts is that it makes clear how the science of risk analysis is relatively new, and the reason behind that is that the world hadn't been ready. Generations of math wizards had to make discoveries and theories that sometimes didn't sit well with the general public. The book talks about the friendship between Fermat and Pascal, and also about incredibly influential historical figures like Gerolamo Cardano, John Graunt, Edmond Halley, the Bernoulli family, Bayes, and many others. The section about Halley was very insightful and made me look forward to the next time Halley's comet shows up. The part about Gauss will make you respect the "degauss" button on your monitor. Finally it gets to our current era and the challenges that are being solved nowadays, such as risk analysis.

Through these narratives mixed with math concepts, this books gives a historical tour of how much ground has been covered in the area of probability, with a human perspective.

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