The story of when humans discovered probability theory. : The Indicator from Planet Money The concept of probability may feel intuitive today, but for much of human history, that wasn't the case. Jacob Goldstein tells the origin story of probability.
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Probability, Gambling, And Death

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Probability, Gambling, And Death

Probability, Gambling, And Death

Probability, Gambling, And Death

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/930544565/930556587" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Dice at Excalibur Hotel & Casino on June 11, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

To many, the concept of probability feels intuitive. We're used to thinking about the odds of everything from coin flips to election results. Probability has become so integral to everyday life, it's taught in elementary schools around the world.

But in the larger human story, probability theory is relatively new. For much of history, outcomes were seen as unknowable or controlled by divine forces.

Planet Money's Jacob Goldstein joins the show to talk about the origin of probability theory, how it's tied to gambling, and how governments started using it to predict when people are likely to die. The story comes from Jacob's new book Money: The True Story of a Made-Up Thing.

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