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I Am So Random

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Uploaded on Sep 29, 2009

for my review this wednesday, i took a look at The Drunkards Walk by Leonard Mlodinow, a book that chronicles the myriad ways in which randomness — from the motion of particles to the spinning of a roulette wheel to the performance of mutual funds — permeates our lives. The Drunkards Walk requires some serious neuronal firing, so if you plan to read this book during the commercial breaks of Greys Anatomy, think again. that being said, Mlodinow does a fantastic job of taking complicated probability/statistics concepts and breaking them down for folks who havent spent their careers analyzing coin tosses.

Mlodinows main argument is this: the majority of humans currently inhabiting the planet lack a basic but fundamental understanding of probability. as a consequence, we make decisions that are decidedly unwise and that often run counter to our best interests. game show contestants choose the wrong door, profitable CEOs are axed by board members, well-meaning juries convict innocent people of crimes. moreover, we consistently underestimate the role of randomness in our lives and conjure explanations for phenomena (like sports scores and high school GPAs) that may give us a greater sense of control, but are ultimately misguided.

about three-quarters of the way into the book, i have to admit that i found myself pretty dejected. taking Mlodinows reasoning to its extreme (almost everything is random, we are deluding ourselves by believing that anything is actually under our control), a sense of futility enveloped my soul, kind of like the pink goo from The Matrix. BUT, just when i thought all hope was lost, Mlodinow turned my frown upside down. if you want to know how, read the book playerz.

i legitimately feel smarter after finishing The Drunkards Walk (a statement not to be taken lightly, as my IQ is ALREADY off the charts) and i would recommend it for anyone with a predilection for reading AND rithmetic. some people might view Mlodinows thesis as a repudiation of the notion of fate, which could understandably turn off some more deterministic-minded folks, but i encourage even those doubters to check out The Drunkards Walk for a brush-up on statistics (ill give you a high five if you remember what chi-squared means) and some good fodder for philosophical debates.

Score: 8.5/10
Mlodinow has an easy-to-follow, conversational writing style and manages to squeeze a healthy dose of humor and storytelling into a book about math. if you want to know more about randomness, take a chance on The Drunkards Walk.

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