Against the Gods by Peter L. Bernstein presents the history of mankind's encounter with uncertainty and risks, phenomena that pervades every aspect of military experience. What distinguishes the modern times with the distance past goes beyond the progress of science, technology, democracy and capitalism.Bernstein work in this book has laid out a remarkably insightful and entertaining history of the “science” of finance, including the descriptions of the people who drove the development of modern financial economics to what is it today.The whole concept behind defining the revolutionary idea is the boundary between modern times and the past is the mastery of risk. Bernstein's book tells the a story of thinkers whose remarkable vision revealed how to put the future at the service of the present by showing the world how to undertake risk, weigh and measure its consequences.
These great men succeeded in this analysis by converting risk-taking into prime catalyst that derives the modern Western society.Prometheus defied the gods and probed the darkness in search of the light and converted the future from an enemy to an opportunity. The great men defined in Bernstein book transformed the attitudes towards risk management unleashed by their achievements has channeled the human passion for games and wagering into economic growth, improved quality of life and what’s more, technological progress.This rational process of risk taking propelled science and enterprise into the world of speed, power, instant communication and finance that marks the modern world. Their discoveries about nature risks rely upon art and science of choice and this is what has brought about the modern market economy that all the nations around the world are hastening to join. Free economy has he calls it, was acquitted with problems and pitfalls and brought humanity unparalleled access to the good things of life.
Risk management guides us over a vast range of decision-making. These goes from allocating wealth, safeguarding public health, waging war to planning and family. The list still goes on, from paying insurance premiums to wearing a seatbelt, planting corn to marketing cornflakes (Bernstein, 1996, p. 1-2).
When we compare the old days with the modern world in regard to technology, farming tools, business management and communication were simple. Breakdown of these tools were more frequent however repairs could be made easily and with anybody without having to call a plumber, or any specialist for that matter, but today, tools used are complex with minimum breakdowns with far-reaching consequences.When we look at it, without a command of probability theory of risk-taking, engineers could never have designed the bridges that span the widest rivers today, no airplanes would fly, without insurance, death of bread winner of the family would reduce young families to starvation or charity. We can see that risk management has yielded positive impacts to our economy and improved lives as well.
We could not imagine life without existence of electricity and health acre provision; this could mean that only the rich would afford hospitals and the poor left to die at home. If farmers were unable to sell their crops before the priced fixed before harvest, food produced with be less and this would lead to starvation (Bernstein, 1996, p.2).Renaissance was fully flared in 1654 with the Chevalier de Mere, a French nobleman who challenged the the French mathematical Blaise Pascal to solve a mathematical puzzles. The puzzle had confounded mathematicians since it was posed two hundred years by the monk Luca Paccioli. Paccioli is the man who discovered the double entry book keeping in business in his day.
The solution of Paccioli's puzzle brought about independent decision making by people and focused the future in numbering. This has made what the world it is today, people manage to make decisions in a rational because of the understanding of the risks involved. By the time Fermat and Pascal made through into the world of probability, people were experiencing extraordinary wave of innovation and exploration.Towards the end of 1654, various things in the world had been discovered; vast new lands, skilled artist in the use of perspective, printing with movable type had ceased to be novelty, gunpowder was reducing medieval castles to dust, Amsterdam wealth was doing well and wealth was pouring into Europe.These new development was well received by the society however; these development had profound consequences that put mysticism on the run (Bernstein, 1996, p.
3).As the years passed, mathematicians transformed probability into a powerful instrument for organizing, interpreting and applying information. As one idea was piled to another, quantitative techniques of risk management emerged and have helped trigger the tempo of modern times. The use of mathematics still went on until 1725.Mathematicians were competing with one another in devising tables of life expectations and during that time, the English government was financing itself the sale of life annuities. Various developments came into existence by the middle of the century; marine insurance had emerged as a sophisticated booming business in London (Bernstein, 1996, p.
4).Bernstein's demonstrates and emphasizes the advances emerging from the notion that investors are rational and security markets are efficient. His ideas focuses on modern portfolio theory were are using today and its implications for security prices and on the development of new instruments, like equity options. Bernstein's inventions unleashed the freedom of thought, passion for experimental and desire to control the future thus put us on the path to the science of risk management.What make the entire exercise of risk management pleasant, are the laws of probability, decision theory, forecasting and utility theory. Then the emergence of the world of stock market, brought the pleasant stroll to an end as chaos erupted as the world of perfect information as they called it, had not brought perfect predictability.
Gods serves as a prequel; it searches out the roots of modern finance and provides an interpretation of the history of that “science”. Throughout his works, he carries out an investigation of the meaning of rationally and the limits of rationally in explaining our choices (Bernstein, 1996, p.1).