REVIEW: "Against the Gods", Peter L. Bernstein

Discussion in 'Computer Security' started by Rob Slade, doting grandpa of Ryan and Trevor, Nov 19, 2003.

  1. BKAGNGDS.RVW 20031006

    "Against the Gods", Peter L. Bernstein, 1996, 0-471-29563-9,
    %A Peter L. Bernstein
    %C 5353 Dundas Street West, 4th Floor, Etobicoke, ON M9B 6H8
    %D 1996
    %G 0-471-29563-9
    %I John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
    %O U$19.95/C$30.95/UK#11.95 416-236-4433 fax: 416-236-4448
    %P 383 p.
    %T "Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk"

    The story of risk is, indeed, remarkable, and many times Bernstein
    skates right up to the point of saying something really profound--
    but, regrettably, never actually does so. The introduction points out
    the importance of risk analysis, especially quantitative, to the
    development of modern civilization. This explains the emphasis, in
    the early chapters, on milestones in the evolution of mathematics.
    (The latter part of the work makes it clear that the author limits
    "civilization" to the formation of the stock market.)

    The book is divided into five parts, but since the first 70% of the
    text is historical and biographical, the divisions are rather
    arbitrary. Chapter one gives us Bernstein's opinion that gambling and
    fatalism prevented Greece and Rome from developing risk analysis, the
    attempted proof being circular and uncompelling. The same amusing but
    pointless erudition is provided in chapter two, ostensibly about
    Fibonacci and arabic numerals.

    Chapter three moves more solidly into biographical territory, with
    some history of gambling and the beginning of statistics serving as an
    introduction to Cardano and Italian mathematical schools. In short
    order we then look at Pascal, Graunt, Halley, statuarial studies,
    Lloyd's of London, the first steps towards economics, a subjective
    look at the concept of utility, the law of large numbers (increased
    confidence in analysis with increased instances), Gauss (and although
    the point is obvious Gaussian distribution we never quite get there),
    and Galton and normal distribution. At this point the book almost
    abandons its previous polish and moves largely into promotional
    realms, looking at the short and long term activities of stock
    markets, a brief detour into Victorian studies of economics, more on
    statistics and reliability, a comparison of Knight and Keynes that
    isn't really clear on either, game theory as applied to chance, stock
    portfolios, psychological factors in risk choice, the irrationality of
    investors, and derivative financial instruments.

    The book provides some fascinating bedtime reading and a peek at a
    number of concepts related to statistics, but ultimately does not
    provide much in the way of an understanding of risk, risk analysis,
    risk assessment, or risk management.

    copyright Robert M. Slade, 2003 BKAGNGDS.RVW 20031006


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    Rob Slade, doting grandpa of Ryan and Trevor, Nov 19, 2003
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