Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk

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John Wiley & Sons, Sep 7, 1996 - Business & Economics - 383 pages
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How the idea of risk propelled the process of science and enterprise into the modern world'It is said that no one can beat the odds. That may be true, but Peter Bernstein can make you understand what it means to take risks, financial and otherwise. No one else could have written a book of such central importance with so much charm and excitement.'--Robert Heilbroner, author of The Worldly PhilosophersIn a narrative that reads like a novel, Against the Gods tells the story of a group of famous scientists and ingenious amateurs who actually discovered the notion of risk--of scientifically linking the present to the future. Like Prometheus, these pioneers equipped humanity with a set of tools that would spark the achievements of the modern world.People constantly make choices, arrive at decisions, and take risks. Savers buy stocks, doctors perform operations, poker players figure the odds, spaceships soar into the skies, and business managers launch new products. Without the instruments of risk management, such decisions would be impossible, because no one could figure the likelihood of successful outcomes. Indeed, the idea that human beings need not look to the heavens or listen to soothsayers for advice is less than five hundred years old. Hence, without the modern techniques of risk management, most of these decisions would be inconceivable: no bridges would span our widest rivers, our great corporate enterprises would never have come into being, no lives would be saved by coronary bypasses, space travel would be a dream, and no one would play poker.Against the Gods blends biography with history and science to show how famous thinkers like Pascal, Bernoulli, Bayes, Keynes Markowitz, Arrow and von Neumann paved the way from superstition to the super computer. But Bernstein tells of others as well: men who were less known but equally important in developing the theory and practice of risk management, including a few inveterate gamblers, two ministers, an anonymous group of monks, a doctor, a button salesman, and a composer of operas. The book explains such concepts as probability, uncertainty, the distinction between chance and skill, the interactions between gambling and investing, and rational versus irrational decision-making.PETER L. BERNSTEIN (New York, New York) is the author of the bestselling Capital Ideas: The Improbable Origins of Modern Wall Street and the editor of The Portable MBA in Investment (Wiley). He is the president of Peter L. Bernstein, Inc., an economic consulting firm for institutional advisors and corporations. 'Against the Gods is an extraordinarily entertaining and informative book.'--Wall Street Journal.'Nothing like Against the Gods will come out of the financial world this year or ever. I speak carefully: no one should miss it.'--John Kenneth Galbraith Professor of Economics Emeritus, Harvard University.'An extraordinarily entertaining and informative book.'--The Wall Street Journal.'No one else could have written a book of such central importance with so much charm and excitement.'--Robert Heilbroner, author, The Worldly Philosophers.'Peter Bernstein leads us effortlessly through the history of risk because he writes so beautifully. This is a book on a left brain subject that will have right brain readers lining up for more!'--Robert Ferguson, Managing Director, Bankers Trust Australia Limited.'This looks like a new investment classic to me.'--Barton M. Biggs, Chairman, Morgan Stanley Asset Management, Inc.Peter Bernstein's bestselling Against the Gods provides a fascinating analysis of risk which draws upon history and biography to trace the development of its concepts.Winner of the Booz Allen Business Book Award for 1997. A BusinessWeek bestsellerPeter Bernstein (New York, NY) is President of Peter L. Bernstein, Inc., established in 1973 to provide economic consulting to institutional advisors and corporations. He is also the author of the bestselling Capital Ideas: The Improbable Origins of Modern Wall Street and publishes a bimonthly analysis of the capital markets and the real economy called 'Economics and Portfolio Strategy.'

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AGAINST THE GODS: The Remarkable Story of Risk

User Review  - Jane Doe - Kirkus

A history of probability from an economist and author of a history of Wall Street (Capital Ideas, 1991). Modern risk theory dates from a little geometric model invented in 1654 called Pascal's ... Read full review

Well written and informative

User Review  - ecjacket -

If you want a good review on the understanding and management of risk this book is a good choice. It is well written and entertaining. Read full review

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About the author (1996)

PETER L. BERNSTEIN is President of Peter L. Bernstein, Inc., economic consultants to institutional investors. Mr. Bernstein is the author of six books in economics and finance, including the bestselling Capital Ideas: The Improbable Origins of Modern Wall Street, as well as many articles in the professional and popular press. He is the Editor of The Portable MBA in Investment (Wiley) and was the Founding Editor of The Journal of Portfolio Management.