Book Review: Super Crunchers by Ian Ayres

Rating: 3/5

This book is about how big data and the statistical analyses of these databases are changing our world. It argues that supercrunchers will give the edge in business, sport, medicine and politics.

This book did not feel very informationally dense. Something that fitted perfectly with the hypothesis of evolutionary maladaption to our modern world is that statistics are very counter-intuitive.  Yet increasingly everybody will have to work with statistics in their daily lives. This also follows the trend highlighted by Alvin Toffler that our lives become increasingly symbolic, abstract and mental. Less and less we can go with what “feels right” and do we have to use deliberate reasoning to function. Yet deliberate reasoning is very hard work and we can only do it for a little while before burning out and reverting to more biased and instinctive modes of thinking.

Something useful I learned is the meaning of the margin of error. It is simply two standard deviations. So you can say with 95% accuracy that the results will fall inside the range of error. Statistics are increasing in importance in every field, yet most people are not taught even the basics of how interpret them in school.

I was also irritated once again by the Imperial System (miles, pounds, inches) that the author used. Why does America insist on using a less effective measurement system, even when everybody else uses the much more efficient (and internally congruent) System International? Because the USA dominates in many spheres such as economic, cultural influence and innovation, we all have to suffer under it. They use an ineffective system, and now we all are forced to understand it as well because in many things the USA is the best. It is inevitable that at some point they will have to switch over, so why don’t they just do it and get it over with?

To happiness, and beyond!


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