Reviews for Super Crunchers : Why Thinking-by-Numbers Is the New Way to Be Smart

Choice Reviews 2008 March
Ayres's book has two major, linked themes. The first describes how the use of statistical techniques (linear regression, randomization, and the Bayesian theorem) is rapidly and increasingly moving problems that were regarded as requiring expert knowledge and intuition into the realm of using algorithms for decision making. The second explains how the increasing availability of cheap storage and large databases has made it possible to employ hitherto difficult techniques. The author offers a fascinating range of applications: prediction of wine quality based on rainfall levels and summer temperatures, evaluation of the potential of aspiring baseball hitters, computerized matching of people, assessment of poverty alleviation programs in Mexico, design of Web ads, and many more. Two of the most important chapters explore evidence-based medicine, i.e., evaluating and modifying treatments based on results rather than a priori theory, and the shifting balance between human experts and computerized programs. A very lucidly written, absorbing book that will most certainly give everyone pleasure and a deeper understanding of data-driven decisions using statistical theory. Summing Up: Recommended. All levels. Copyright 2008 American Library Association.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2007 June #1

Yale Law School professor and econometrician Ayres argues in this lively and enjoyable book that the recent creation of huge data sets allows knowledgeable individuals to make previously impossible predictions. He calls the data set analysts "super crunchers" and discusses the changes they're making to industries like medical diagnostics, air travel pricing, screenwriting and online dating services. Although Ayres presents both sides of this revolution, explaining how the corporate world tries to manipulate consumer behavior and telling consumers how to fight back, his real mission is to educate readers about the basics of statistics and hypothesis testing, spending most of his time in an edifying and entertaining discussion of the use of regression and randomization trials. He frequently asks whether statistical methods are more accurate than the more intuitive conclusions drawn by experts, and consistently concludes that they are. Ayres skillfully demonstrates the importance that statistical literacy can play in our lives, especially now that technology permits it to occur on a scale never before imagined. (Sept. 4)

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