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The Drunkard's Walk
- The fact that human intuition is ill suited to situations involving uncertainty was known as early as the 1930's, when researchers noted that people could neither make up a sequence of numbers that passed mathematical tests for randomness nor recognize reliably whether a given string was randomly generated.
- Prologue, p. ix
- The outline of our lives, like the candles flame, is continuously coaxed in new directions by a variety of random events that, along with our responses to them, determine our fate.
- Chapter 1, Peering Through The Eyepiece Of Randomness, p. 4
- Random events often come like the raisins in a box of cereal - in groups, streaks, and clusters. And although Fortune is fair in potentialities, she is not fair in outcomes.
- Chapter 1, Peering Through The Eyepiece Of Randomness, p. 13
- The theory of randomness is fundamentally a codification of common sense.
- Chapter 2, The Laws Of Truths And Half - Truths, p. 21 (See also: William Feller)
- The nasty thing about the availability bias is that it insidiously distorts our view of the world by distorting our perception of past events and our environment.
- Chapter 2, The Laws Of Truths And Half - Truths, p. 28
- Another lottery mystery that raised many eyebrows occurred in Germany on June 21, 1995. The freak event happened in a lottery called Lotto 6/49, which means that the winning six numbers are drawn from 1 to 49. On the day in question the winning numbers were 15-25-27-30-42-48. The very same sequence had been drawn previously, on December 20, 1986. It was the first time in 3,016 drawings that a winning sequence had been repeated. What were the chances of that? Not as bad as you'd think. When you do the math, the chance of a repeat at some point over the years comes out to around 28 percent.
- Chapter 4, Tracking The Pathways To Success, p. 65
- Comets at the time were considered by theologians and the general public alike as a sign of divine anger, and God must have seemed pretty pissed off to create this one - it occupied more than half of the visible sky.
- Chapter 5, The Dueling Of Large And Small Numbers, p. 89
- The law of small numbers is not really a law. It is a sarcastic name describing the misguided attempt to apply the law of large numbers when the numbers aren't large.
- Chapter 5, The Dueling Of Large And Small Numbers, p. 99
- It is one of those contradictions of life that although measurement always carries uncertainty, the uncertainty in measurement is rarely discussed.
- Chapter 7, Measurement And The Law Of Errors, p. 129
- It might seem daunting to think that effort and chance, as much as innate talent, are what counts. But I find it encouraging because, while our genetic makeup is out of our control, our degree of effort is up to us. And the effects of chance, too, can be controlled to the extent that by committing ourselves to repeated attempts, we can increase our odds of success.
- Chapter 8, The Order In Chaos, p. 162
- Perception requires imagination because the data people encounter in their lives are never complete and always equivocal.
- Chapter 9, Illusions Of Pattens And Patterns Of Illusions, p. 170-171
- We afford automatic respect to superstar business moguls, politicians, and actors and to anyone flying around in a private jet, as if their accomplishments must reflect unique qualities not shared by those forced to eat commercial airline food. And we place too much confidence in the overly precise predictions of people - political pundits, financial experts, business consultants - who claim a track record demonstrating expertise.
- Chapter 10, The Drunkard's Walk, p. 199-200
- Historians whose profession is to study the past, are as wary as scientists of the idea that events unfold in a manner that can be predicted. In fact, in a study of history the illusion of inevitability has serious consequences that it is one of the few things that both conservative and socialist historians can agree on.
- Chapter 10, The Drunkard's Walk, p. 201
- Obviously it can be a mistake to assign brilliance in proportion to wealth. We cannot see a persons potential, only his or her results, so we often misjudge people by thinking that the results must reflect the person. The normal accident theory of life shows not that the connection between actions and rewards is random but that random influences are as important as our qualities and actions.
- Chapter 10, The Drunkard's Walk, p. 209
- Even random differences in pay lead to the backward inference of differences in skill and hence to the development of unequal influence. It's an element of personal and office dynamics that can't be ignored.
- Chapter 10, The Drunkard's Walk, p. 211
- We unfortunately seem to be unconsciously biased against those in society who come out on the bottom.
- Chapter 10, The Drunkard's Walk, p. 212
- What I have learned, above all, is to keep marching forward because the best news is that since chance does play a role, one important factor in success is under our control: the number of at bats, the number of chances taken, the number of opportunities seized.
- Chapter 10, The Drunkard's Walk, p. 217