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

3.69  ·  Rating Details  ·  4,517 Ratings  ·  329 Reviews
Why would a casino try and stop you from losing? How can a mathematical formula find your future spouse? Would you know if a statistical analysis blackballed you from a job you wanted?

Today, number crunching affects your life in ways you might never imagine. In this lively and groundbreaking new book, economist Ian Ayres shows how today's best and brightest organizations
Kindle Edition, 272 pages
Published August 27th 2007 by Bantam (first published January 1st 2007)
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Garrett Burnett
Be prepared to encounter the words "supercrunch" (used as any part of speech) and "nano-" (used indiscriminately as a prefix) approximately one billion times in a mere 272 pages. Dr. Ayres wants to write the next Freakonomics , and makes his professional association with Steven Levitt known frequently. What comes out is a repetitive book on applied mathematics fleshed out with anecdotes and descriptions of research. It's okay, but nothing groundbreaking.

According to Ayres, supercrunching involv
Sep 06, 2013 Dolly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: nonfiction fans
Shelves: nonfiction, science, math, 2013
Fascinating look at the role of statistics and data sets today. Although the book was first published in 2007, the information still seems to be very relevant and up-to-date.

I loved the quiz on p. 113 that tested a person's ability to make unbiased estimates. It's shocking how inaccurate and overconfident I was with my own estimates.

Overall, I thought this was a well-written and researched book that really opens my eyes to the predictability of our world based on statistical data regression. It'
The helpful prompt from an online grocery-shopping site, “Do you really want to buy twelve lemons,” was the phrase that left me feeling troubled; it seemed to encapsulate not just the fears about loss of privacy, but concerns about our perceptions of the “norm,” the classification of humanity into categories, the paternalization of everyday decision-making, and, oh yes, a very personal dislike of being just like everyone else.

While my inner merchant delights at the knowledge that huge data-masse
The best of this one is his discussion of the 100,000 lives campaign ( which I didn’t really know about until Jim put me onto this book. A previous book I had read said that hospitals were trying to do something to improve their safety record in line with that of airlines, but the previous book didn’t mention this campaign as what was being proposed. I particularly like their slogan, ‘Some is not a number, soon is not a time’. The discussion of this campa ...more
Deane Barker
Throughout this book, the author keeps trying to make the phrase "Super Cruncher/ing/ed" happen. I kept thinking back to the character in Mean Girls that said, "Gretchen, stop trying to make 'fetch' happen. It's not going to happen."

It gets distracting. And annoying. It doesn't help that it sounds like a breakfast cereal. In the end, it becomes a little embarrassing.

(To be fair, the author notes that he "super crunched" the title -- he ran multiple titles through some regression testing to see w
Brian Nwokedi
Apr 24, 2016 Brian Nwokedi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 10, 2011 Parker rated it liked it
I picked this book up because Lessig called it "the most important book I've read in as long as I can remember". That's some high praise. Indeed, the thesis of this book is an important one to take to heart when thinking about the world today and in the future, but to my mind the book falls short of being an excellent defense of that thesis.

Ayres uses the words "Super Crunching" (over and over) to refer to the act of analyzing large data sets to make evidence-based conclusions about things that
Sean Liddle
I work in the Analytics field and am becoming more involved in prediction and predictive models so it was a genunine pleasure when I first picked up Supercrunchers. I actually read a preview of this book on iBooks on my iPhone at lunchtime which is what got me hooked and convinced me to buy the whole book. Looking back on it, I would still buy it however not with the same enthusiasm as iBooks led me to believe.

The first few chapters are what hooked me. They are filled with examples of real-world
Jan 12, 2009 Andy rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book was trying to be another definitely missed its mark.

The four interesting things I found in it:

1. The author went over a study done on Greyhound racing, experts vs. a computer model for predicting the winner. All the experts lost and the computer model make a 25% profit. My question: this is a freaking money machine! Why would you ever publish this study? Why not just capitalize on it? Something fishy was definitely going on.

2. All the way at the end of the book he goe
Nov 07, 2007 Grumpus rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: business
I have a problem. My name is Mike and I’m a Super Cruncher (all: Hi, Mike!).

I have a near compulsion to look for trends in everything with the goal of forecasting future outcomes. I study patterns looking to predict what will happen next. I loved Mario Livio’s book, The Golden Ratio: The Story of PHI, the World's Most Astonishing Number, am fascinated by the Fibonacci sequence and the study of probabilities. I guess I’m a manqué statistician at heart.

Although I enjoyed this book, I did have hi
MsSmartiePants the candy...
What a book! Shockingly good! I heard about this book while listening to The World is Flat by Thomas Freidman. Immediately, I made a mental note to find and read this book about the impact of computing power on everyday lives. Algorithms, formulas, yikes! (I have a bit of a math phobia.) Thank goodness this book breaks down complex ideas into understandable and applicable explanations.
A wide variety of stories about how the computer is enabling huge changes in our schools, businesses, purchases
Kristin Lieber
A good addition to the empty Statistics shelf at the bookstore, however this book suffers from poor writing and pacing.

“For the rational study of the law the blackletter man may be the man of the present, but the man of the future is the man of statistics” - Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. The Path of the Law, 1897. The book is pretty effective in arguing that people should increase their statistics literacy. The use of mathematical models analyzing large data sets has increased with the increase
Steve Li
Feb 23, 2015 Steve Li rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although this book was written a few yaers ago, it is still relevant and perhaps even more relevant in today's 'big data' environment. This was an extremely intersting book on how the analysis of information is used to improve decision making, sales campaigns, medical decisions etc. It demonstrates the power of collecting objective information in virtually all endeavors to assess the success of your decisions and how to make the next decision. There is virtually no actual math or technical descr ...more
Nico Kock
Sep 21, 2015 Nico Kock rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science, socioology
Super Crunchers (2007) was written in the same vein as a Malcolm Gladwell book or the related Freakanomics book. This means its aim was to be a non-fiction best seller for the chattering NPR listening classes of which I admit I do belong too. It is a light weight introduction to statistical analysis or what has now become known as data science written for the layman that features a lot of ancedotal type stories about the application of statistical analysis in government and business. I could not ...more
May 07, 2009 Jon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
While a lot of this book was stuff that I was somewhat familiar with (e.g., A/B and multivariate testing) there was enough new materials and insights in here to make this a highly-recommended read. We're moving more and more into a data-driven culture and the people who understand that will be at a big advantage over those who don't. In other words, avoid reading Super Crunchers at your own peril. :)
Dan Archer
When I first saw this book I was intrigued to see what insights it contained into the use of data in society. Perhaps I expected too much though, as I found myself skipping though large portions of the chapters, which is something I rarely do.

I came away from the book feeling as though I was not the intended audience, as the majority of the book seems focused on trying to convince the reader of the value of collecting and analysing data. Being someone who works with data and is already convince
Ben Xue
Apr 17, 2016 Ben Xue rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thesis: Human intuition comes second string to data-driven "Super-Crunching".

In a freakonomics like style, Ayers brings out some awesome case studies across various industries: (what year's have the best wine, credit card and airline industry practices, education through teacher scripts, doctors as a brain-network, etc).

He self-references often and repeatedly precedes and closes his case studies with the same phrases (so towards the end gets a little stale), but it is overall a very well resear
Jun 25, 2014 Matt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Following in the footsteps of Steven Levitt's Freakonomics (mentioned several times), Ian Ayres is a world-class economist who seeks to use statistical principles to simplify our crazy world. In example after example, traditional "experts" are beaten handily by simple statistical formulas, mostly regressions. He touts the strengths of randomized testing and regressions again and again, to a point where it becomes tiresome. To his credit, though, Ayres also acknowledges the weaknesses of "Super C ...more
Oct 29, 2009 Andy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A statistician to his core, Ian Ayres has used statistical methods to choose the title of this book. Inside, he describes running a click-through preference experiment using Google Ad Sense, and the end result—Super Crunchers?—shows that, while powerful, these techniques are certainly not, as Ayres seems to think, a panacea. Super Crunchers.

It should be no surprise that statistics provides some immensely powerful tools. The Internet is chock-full of ingenuitive applications of statistics—from Am
Jun 23, 2010 Elizabeth rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 52-in-2010
Super Crunchers: Why Thinking-by-Numbers Is the New Way to Be Smart by Ian Ayres (pp. 272)

Ayres makes the argument for how evidence-based outcomes based on large controlled datasets are the way of the future. He provides a broad range of examples in education, health, and politics.

The first part of the book he does a nice job talking about how technology has made this new movement possible. He talks about needing more Super Crunching in all avenues despite the how difficult and expensive execut
This book reminded me a lot of Freakonomics in the beginning - statistics and economic theory applied in interesting ways. Whereas Freakonomics looked more at the relationship between two seemingly unrelated things, Super Crunchers explored how crunching data in new and unexpected ways can yield surprising results. Lots of examples, which I liked - kept the math from becoming boring and overwhelming.

One of my favorite examples was how casinos are computing individual gambler's "pain points" - t
Brijesh Bolar
For anyone new to the field of analytics, data mining, experimentation this is a very good book to start with, to understand the concepts behind data science and most importantly how to use data from making business decisions.

It helps you understand while data-driven decision making is important and how businesses today are taking decisions based on data. The data could either be lying in the data warehouse which can be mined for insights or in other case the data is not readily available but c
Dec 21, 2009 Andrew rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book is full of interesting anecdotes about how data mining and statistical analysis are used to improve decision making. It also includes an interesting discussion of how to combine knowledge and intuition of experts with statistical models.

But I found the author to be incredibly annoying to read. It seems like he attended the Malcolm Gladwell School of Coining Cute Phrases to Describe Simple Concepts. He makes up the phrase "Super Cruncher", then proceeds to use it ad nauseum. I picked a
Aug 11, 2009 David rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is essentially the story of how multiple regression analysis is increasingly being used in academics and industry to outsmart the humans who design the statistical models. A big part of the story--and a fundamental truth--is that we humans ardently resist conceding our intuitive judgment to something that is often demonstrably superior… and not just our own judgments, but the diagnoses, predictions, and decision-makings of recognized experts. The bottom line is that we need to not only acce ...more
Ana Albutiu
Mar 24, 2013 Ana Albutiu rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, english
I think this book should be comprised in the mandatory reading requirements of any Statistics course, its beauty lying in the way that it gives a reason and a meaning to playing with numbers; I know I would have liked to have read "Super Crunchers" beforehand, to get an idea of what all that gibberish can actually help wiht.

And the examples of the applicability of data analysis showcasted are truly enticing, my personal favourites being the poverty eradication in Mexic, the evidence based medic
Oct 06, 2008 Dave rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book has a lot of 'a-ha!' moments in it and interesting tidbits. It demonstrates the shortcomings of intuition. It gives myriad examples of objective measures of large data, especially correlation. This was particularly interesting in that it's agnostic to cause an effect but can still be powerfully informative. Last, it demonstrates that intuition and objective measure don't need to be in conflict as much as people think; that intuition and experience guide creative choices on what to meas ...more
Jan 07, 2010 Francis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an engaging and eye-opening introduction to the rapidly rising role of data mining techniques (referred to in this book as Super Crunching) in many aspects of our everyday lives. He starts with an example of how regression analysis predicted the prices of Bordeaux vintages from a few weather variables better than the evaluations of wine critics, dispelling a significant portion of the esoteric mystique that the wine critics maintained about the art of tasting. He moves on rapidly to the ...more
May 30, 2011 Chrissy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: the "statistically uninitiated," as the author calls them
An interesting, if repetitive, book about the practical applications of statistics, ranging from business to government policy, from law to internet searches. It contains a large number of fascinating (and occasionally horrifying) pieces of information, enough to satisfy a basic curiosity about how statistics are revolutionizing decision-making in fields as diverse as Hollywood blockbuster filmmaking and poverty reduction, but not enough to really appeal deeply to those who already use statistic ...more
Dec 01, 2010 Kimberly rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I loved Freakonomics which takes everyday paradoxes, questions and perplexities and explains them via economics. Super Crunchers is along the same idea, with some really interesting facts and studies.

Written by Yale Law School professor and econometrician Ian Ayres, Super Crunchers introduces us to huge amounts of data that have been collected and shows us how these statistics can be used to make accurate predictions about everyday things. Some of the examples Ayres uses are how these scores of
Chad Kohalyk
Feb 25, 2010 Chad Kohalyk rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio, working
Imagine The Deciding Factor rewritten by someone with a sense of humour rather than a copywriter for a huge data-mining company, mix in a little of The Long Tail, some Malcolm Gladwell, and you get this book. Mostly the book presents how regression analysis and randomized testing are used in a series of anecdotal stories. It does not go into how these numbers are crunched, just how the results can be used. The only thing I learned here was the concept of "making your own data" using randomized t ...more
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Ian Ayres is the William K. Townsend Professor at Yale Law School and the Yale School of Management, and is editor of the Journal of Law, Economics and Organization. In addition to his best-selling SuperCrunchers, Ayres has written for the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, International Herald Tribune, and The New Republic. He lives in New Haven, Connecticut.Barry Nalebuff ...more
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