Sunday, 30 October 2016

Drunkard's Walk

Muddlehead says that:

"'...Drunkard's Walk computations involve comparatively sophisticated mathematics.'" (David Falkayn: Star Trader, p. 170)

I first encountered the phrase "Drunkard's Walk" as the title of an sf novel by Frederick Pohl. There is a more recent popular science book called The Drunkard's Walk, which is of interest for at least two reasons. First, it refers to interpretation of stochastic processes. In James Blish's Cities In Flight future history, a future philosophical system is called Stochasticism. Secondly, it refers to misinterpretation of random events.

I could interpret many random events in my life as providential because they had beneficial outcomes. However, it is clearly wrong to generalize from one life to life in general. In Poul Anderson's "The Trouble Twisters," the Inkranankans see their luck as generally bad but this is because of environmental factors specific to their planet. Their condition will be changed for the better by contact with the Polesotechnic League.


  1. Paul:
    It's a bizarre coincidence, but one of the other sites I visit regularly is based around a fan-fiction series called "Drunkard's Walk" — I was checking that site just before I came here and saw this post.

  2. Kaor, Paul!

    I was interested enough to look up Section 8 of "The Troubletwisters," where we see Gujgengi, one of the Deodaka officials assigned by his Emperor to deal with the trader team, consulted Muddlehead. He asked the sentient computer for advice on how to improve the odds of Gujgengi winning more often at a game of chance called "akritel." In return for a fee Muddlehead calculated for him tables showing how a player could improve the probability of him winning games of "akritel" using stochastic analysis. Most amusing, esp. since the fee enabled Muddlehead to play REAL poker against the trader team later on!