Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Drunkard's walk - Leonard Mlodinow (2008)

Mlodinow, Leonard. 2008. The Drunkard's walk : how randomness rules our lives. New York: Pantheon Books.

I believe the author of the book is a great translator, meaning he is really good at ‘interpreting mathematical or statistical theorems at highly abstract level into ordinary English which is natural language most people can understand.’ With the deep and interesting historical anecdotes and records, the author shows that patterns that people found ‘intuitively’ are frequently wrong and misguide people’s decision. The key argument is simple: Randomness matters and it is the key principle that penetrates human activities.

However, actually, it is really hard concept for ordinary people to understand the meaning of randomness because most human beings cannot generate random numbers as machine (any statistical or computer language does with short time) does. It might be really wonder that ordinary humans understand the meaning of randomness via interesting examples in the book while they are not able to make random events.

Suggested readers are undergraduate students and some undergraduate students who have no history of studying formal statistics or mathematical trainings. Of course, social scientific readers who have studied statistics with three or four courses also get huge help and insights from this book. Personally, some of social scientific findings may not be safe from the randomness argument in the book.

Though it is my personal feeling, the book has too many distractions that are interesting by themselves but prevent readers from focusing the main topic, i.e., randomness. Historical records or anecdotes are good and release readers’ burden for the hardness of the topic, but I feel that they are too many and suddenly intervene in the middle of descriptions.

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