Byzantine Reality

Searching for Byzantine failures in the world around us

The Drunkard's Walk

I’ve loved math for quite a long time, and have stumbled through the math section at my local bookstores whenever I got a chance. As such, it was pretty hard to miss The Drunkard’s Walk, a short but sweet introduction to probability and statistics (with a little bit of history dabbled in), and was entranced by its tagline: “How Randomness Rules Our Lives”. I finally got around to buying (and reading) it, and overall it was pretty good.

What The Drunkard’s Walk gets right is its accessibility. It teaches the layperson the basic laws that govern probability and statistics through simple examples to show how we can easily be tricked into believing something that is completely inaccurate. In fact, it goes a step further than that and often shows surveys or reports where people were misguided and believed things that were completely wrong or impossible (in a few cases) due to flaws in logic. On other occasions it also describes the history behind the people who discovered these laws and how they came to grips with it. All of this does wonders and makes it an incredibly easy read for what is normally a tough subject to tackle.

So like the book, this review will be short and sweet – go get The Drunkard’s Walk and read it right away. If you’ve already taken classes on probability and statistics you likely won’t learn anything new on the math side but will pick up a bit on the history and real-world examples sides, so there’s still merit there regardless of your background.