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# Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk

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With the stock market breaking records almost daily, leaving longtime market analysts shaking their heads and revising their forecasts, a study of the concept of risk seems quite timely. Peter Bernstein has written a comprehensive history of man's efforts to understand risk and probability, beginning with early gamblers in ancient Greece, continuing through the
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## Get A Copy

Paperback, 383 pages

Published
September 14th 1998
by Wiley
(first published August 24th 1996)

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Start your review of Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk

*Against the Gods*is a classic, a 1996 tour de force by the late Peter Bernstein.

This book is about how our perception of risk, especially with respect to decisions with financial outcomes, advanced (rather slowly) from ancient times to the present. A generation ...more

I have to say that the title of the book is not totally compatible with the content. “Against The Gods” gives the impression that the book would illustrate how human beings overcame their superstitions and prejudices, and opposed blind faith. The book talks about how the development of mathematics and statistics provided human beings with ways of quantifying risks but it does not talk about ...more

Take Bernstein's introduction, for example:

"The revolutionary idea that defines the boundary between modern times and the past is the mastery of risk: the notion that the future is more ...more

The author has a nice way of mixing background color and the personalities of the various people he discusses in with the overall examination of risk. I enjoyed thinking along with notions like why the number zero didn't exist until society had moved forward ...more

Disappointing; Bernstein is not a great writer and it was not really what I was expecting. Most of the book covers the time period before the 20th century and concerns mathematicians' and others' discoveries about probability. My interest in risk is in the areas of insurance - actuarial science - and corporate risk assessments/risk management. The only example of actuarial science Bernstein used was from the 18 century. I began to get slightly interested when he brought up Procter & Gamble ...more

No, instead this is a book the first two-thirds of which are a history of probability and forecasting, which, though related to risk, are not the same thing as risk, as evidenced by the author awkwardly ...more

It's a general mathematical history of risk management, but most of the material is rudimentary. The material itself is probably just a basic statistics and finance course stripped of actual formulas. For people really into mathematical history and etymology this book might be more interesting than it was for me. The book starts with the adoption of arabic numerals goes through the basic history of probability and statistics before concluding with finance and ...more

*Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk*, because this book features a thrilling, storm-tossed boat on a raging sea … and the text features a thrilling, storm-tossed story about ……… !!!

Hold on, my heart is absolutely pounding.

{sits down, head between knees breathing into a paper bag}

Ok … here we go … it’s about the mathematicians who developed the mathematical probability theories in ...more

*anything*less insane. (Plus, "There shall not be found among you any one that...useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter...or a consulter with familiar spirits" - Deuteronomy 18:10-11)

It's not crazy. Bernstein, an economic historian and fund manager, begins this enjoyable history of risk with the ...more

Where it gets interesting is when it goes beyond ...more

**Simple and Erudite**

To trace uncertainity from the beginning of history and link upto modern day financial engineering makes this a very interesting book to read. At some places it was too intense...so intense that a normal cover to cover reader like me had to pause,reflect and then proceed.At the end of it you realise we are not there yet when it comes to human behavior and modern day economics.

It's been ...more

Like Bernstein, I spent the majority of my career in financial services (that may be the only similarity between us), so I have always been fascinated with people’s attitudes about risk and money in general. I also wanted to know more about my own proclivities on those matters. Sometimes, I look back in ...more

The historical part is mildly interesting. Although it is written haphazardly as a series of anecdotes about famous mathematicians and other important savants, it is good to place names and concepts into some sort of ...more

I recommend you have at least univeristy level understanding of stats before you undertake this read.

Some of the book was good, like when the author briefly touched on the golden ratio, insurance through Lloyds of London and derivatives. I felt like the he could have gone deeper in to some of the sections or extrapolate more applications of the newly discovered statistical calculations - ie through analysis of the bell curve and ...more

If you happen to meet those criteria, this book will help answer the question: "how well have humans done at trying to predict the future, in order to avoid risky situations?" The book does this by tracing risk management back to the VERY beginning of people trying to understand numbers (interesting history of the number zero) up to the Black-Scholes model of ...more

Out of this, banking was created and trade evolved including the ability to evaluate risk and calculate interest risk which gave rise to modern banking, stock trading, insurance and other mathematically based industries which are the cornerstone of our modern financial structure.

It can be a little dry at times, but skipping the mathematical lessons will not detract from the ...more

topics | posts | views | last activity | |
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Fantastic Review of Against the Gods | 1 | 35 | Sep 22, 2011 09:57PM |

Founder and President of Peter L. Bernstein, Inc., which he established in 1973 as economic consultants to institutional investors and corporations around the world.

In 1951, after teaching economics at Williams College and a five-year stint in commercial banking, Peter became Chief Executive of a nationally–known investment counsel firm, where he personally managed billions of dollars of ...more

In 1951, after teaching economics at Williams College and a five-year stint in commercial banking, Peter became Chief Executive of a nationally–known investment counsel firm, where he personally managed billions of dollars of ...more

11 trivia questions

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“The information you have is not the information you want. The information you want is not the information you need. The information you need is not the information you can obtain. The information you can obtain costs more than you want to pay”
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“The word 'risk' derives from the early Italian risicare, which means 'to dare'. In this sense, risk is a choice rather than a fate. The actions we dare to take, which depend on how free we are to make choices, are what the story of risk is all about. And that story helps define what it means to be a human being.”
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