21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Everything is a risk,
This review is from: Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk (Paperback)
Are you a private investor looking for handy tips on hot stocks? Good luck, but this might not be for you. You won't find get-rick-quick advice in this scholarly work, but you might learn why you're drawn to actively managed funds despite their history of market underperformance. You'll also be enriched by the stories and depth of research here. Another reviewer objects that Bernstein credits the Greek mathematicians with less understanding of probability than a school child. It seemed to me that Bernstein is saying something different: Even if Socrates had a private opinion about the frequency of VI on an astragali roll it wasn't a respectable part of his intellectual framework. He might of known it, but he refused to study it.
The author clearly considers his subject the most important in history, and in 330 pages identifies every significant step in the development of *thinking about* risk. In some ways though, the focus is too narrow. It becomes clear towards the end of the book that he has been building up the strands of probability theory as precursors to the 'taming of risk' in modern financial theory. I was hoping that an ambitious work on the history of probability would include the discovery that all of reality is based on chance, but you can search the index for 'Quantum Mechanics' in vain. (However 'Quant' is there - Bernstein himself was once a financial mathematician.)
In a subject as huge as risk there will always be more to say, and what is included here makes a cohesive whole whilst being important or interesting in it parts. Ok, maybe you don't love chance as much as me - what you need to know about portfolio theory is in Chapter 12 onwards - you'll still have 140 pages of important results. It's even topical, Kahneman's Prospect Theory is covered in detail (and he won the Nobel last year).