Friday, August 24, 2012

Against The Gods

Value investors who are also history buffs may love Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk. Author Peter Bernstein traces the evolution of human understanding of risk throughout the centuries, from the gamblers and dice throwers of the 1200's to the cutting edge methods of risk evaluation today.

The discovery/invention of probabilities, game theory, portfolio theory and other concepts that humans have tried to grasp in order to better understand risk are explored. You don't need to understand a whole bunch of math to know what's going on, however; the book is written for the layman, and explains each concept explored in simple terms.

The book is also full of anecdotes, sometimes linking various thinkers of the generations by bloodline and often exploring the unusual aspects of their personalities that may have contributed to their breakthroughs, from "the man with the sprained brain" to "the man who counted everything except calories".

One thing to note, however, is that the book was published in the mid-1990s. Having not been witness to the financial fiasco of the last several years, the book does not contain an analysis of the weaknesses of some modern-day "risk aversion" techniques (many of which may be termed ticking time-bombs).

Enjoy the book!

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