random walk


A random walk is a mathematical formalization of a path that consists of a succession of random steps. For example, the path traced by a molecule as it travels in a liquid or a gas, the search path of a foraging animal, the financial status of a gambler, and the price of a fluctuating stock can all be modeled as random walks, although they may not be truly random in reality.

The term “random walk” was first introduced by English mathematician and biostatician Karl Pearson in 1905. Random walks have been used in many fields: ecology, psychology, computer science, physics, chemistry, biology and economics. However, random walk theory gained its greatest popularity in 1973 when Burton Malkiel wrote A Random Walk Down Wall Street, a book regarded as an investment classic.

Random walk states that the past movement or direction of the price of a stock or overall market cannot be used to predict its future movement.

I recently began thinking about random walk theory when I happened upon a YouTube video of  the “Top 10 Most Evil Children In History” and was surprised to see two of our kids listed there. Knowing these young people as I do, I have thought about their troubled lives many times, but I have never thought of labeling either of them as the “most evil in history.”

This website has it all wrong. If these kids—either of them—truly belonged on this list, their crime would have been inevitable, no matter what their circumstances or decisions. However, so many of the events that unfolded happened by chance and coincidence and as a result of the actions of other people besides the kids. Had the situation been only slightly different, the crime would probably not have happened.

This is not to say that the kids bear no responsibility for their decisions. However, given their young ages and lack of experience and maturity, they cannot be held as responsible as the adults in the situation. If the moniker “evil” should be assigned to anyone, it is to the adults.

Now as these kids enter adulthood and bear more responsibility for their choices, the 254,200 people who have viewed this video have been influenced to believe that these kids are “evil.”  Their lives moving forward are by no means certain, yet the prejudices of society presume—contrary to random walk theory—that their past actions can be used to predict the future trajectories of their lives.

This is wrong and unfair.





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1 Response to “random walk”

  1. 1 Frank Manning
    August 27, 2015 at 2:32 am

    You piqued my curiosity with this entry, Dan, so I googled “Top 10 Most Evil Children In History”. I got four top results, and watched each one of them. The particular video you cited was the last one I watched, so I was getting more and more puzzled with each passing video. It seemed that every one of those very disturbed youngsters had earned their spot on that list–then sure enough I yelled WTF as I saw our two kids on that last video. Someone definitely engaged in some VERY faulty research. I do think, though, that some of the kids featured in those videos are or were truly “evil.” Who tortures a toddler to death, or shoots up a school because “I hate Mondays”? There are evil people in this world, and as you’ve been pointing out in recent posts “the devil” did not make them do it. Whether they just developed that way or were shaped by malevolent adults in their lives is a question for which I have no ready answer.

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