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

3.70  ·  Rating details ·  5,671 ratings  ·  395 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 a ...more
Hardcover, 260 pages
Published August 28th 2007 by Bantam Books (first published January 1st 2007)
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Garrett Burnett
Apr 30, 2009 rated it it was ok
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 invo
The best of this one is his discussion of the 100,000 lives campaign (http://www.ihi.org/IHI/Programs/Campa...) 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
Sep 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science, nonfiction, 2013, math
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'
May 28, 2008 rated it liked 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
~nikki the recovering book addict
Wow... it’s taken me more than three months to finish this book. In my defence, I started the introduction in January and for some reason, I had the impression that the book, written in 2007 would be outdated by now. I mean, we all know a data-analyst or two, right? And we see so much of it in businesses today that I wrongly assumed that whatever was written would have been old news by now.

How wrong I was! More than a decade later, other than the big tech giants, not many other companies are ut
Juan Manuel Sotelo
It’s 2018 and this book is still a great reference for anyone who wants to understand how data-driven thinking works.
Aug 31, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Brian Nwokedi
Feb 21, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Deane Barker
Nov 25, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: owned
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
Jan 12, 2009 rated it did not like it
This book was trying to be another Freakanomics...it 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
Sep 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
An older book that I had wanted to read for awhile. Provides a good overview of the increasing significance of numbers in our day-to-day lives and the importance, as the future rolls forward, of being able to “crunch” those numbers to better understand the world around us. The book starts off in detail with, and steadily contributes throughout, a long list of situations and events which underscore the importance of quantitative thinking in the modern US society, let alone the increasingly connec ...more
This book was great when it came out, but it didn't age well. I wouldn't read it now. ...more
Nov 05, 2021 marked it as xx-dnf-skim-reference
Too old. The best of it is the same as what is in newer books, and there's plenty that just doesn't hold up. Skimmed Nov. 2021. ...more
Jan 24, 2021 rated it it was ok
It's a bit dated, but would have been interesting to read when it first came out. ...more
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
Sep 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Sep 17, 2007 rated it liked it
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
Jan 30, 2019 rated it it was ok
I picked up this book on a whim at a used bookstore and hate to admit that yes, I'm a victim of Ayres favorite (and incredibly overused) term, "Super Crunching."

Seriously: This word appears on every single page, and once you notice it, you won't stop noticing it. Sometimes its there two or three times. At one point Ayres bragged that he used "Super Crunching" techniques to settle on the title for his book. An algorithm told him it would be more popular with potential readers than another option
MsSmartiePants ...like 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
Travis Hulse
Mar 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Great book! I stumbled upon this book at the library and was intrigued by the title. My interest was primed by some of the work I am doing with data analysis to inform my decision-making as a City Planner.

Since I am new to the practice of data crunching, this book provides a great introduction to what pitfalls and opportunities await. The author keeps it fairly light and general as much of the data world is bogged down in statistics, mathematics, theory, etc. I’ve never valued my college exposur
May 07, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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. :) ...more
Nilesh Jasani
Jul 29, 2011 rated it liked it
A book with diametrically opposite message of "The Black Swan". A good read for anyone who gets taken too much by aggressively delivered message by Mr Taleb. But otherwise, it contains little new for those who know elementary statistics and information analysis well. A relatively concise book but still with too much repetitions. ...more
Gerry Claes
May 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
I’m not a wine connoisseur by any means however I do enjoy a nice glass of wine on occasion. I never quite understood the rating system used to value wines. There is more than one wine rating and the results are totally subjective. I always thought that there has to be a better way to rate wine and it turns out that a “Super Cruncher” has come up with an objective way to rate wines.

After reviewing tons of data Orley Ashenfelter determined that low levels of harvest rain and high average summer
May 07, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Many examples are a bit dated (book from 2007), but underlying principles about the good (and bad) that can be done with near limitless and cheap data still hold. Eg. A/B testing or RCTs, price discrimination, predictions and uncertainty, coupling data sets to get new information, privacy issues.


how much each player is winning or losing. It combines these gambling data together with other infor mation such as the customer's age and the average income in the area where he or she lives, all
Chris Graham
Jun 20, 2022 rated it it was amazing
This outstandingly deeply intelligent and exquisitely researched book tells you "How Anything Can Be Predicted". It adds Steven D. Levitt's observation that "It may just change the way you think" - and he's not kidding.

How to tell, inter alia, if it will be a good vintage year for wine even before the grapes are harvested. Without trying to turn you into another Andrew Wiles, it gently reminds you about (or introduces you to) things like "Regression Analysis" (which has been around since the 19t
Helen Mary Labao
A fascinating read. It's something relatable to a diverse group of people with the very colorful real life stories on how data has shaped the world today. This was written long before the data revolution was in full swing so it must have been very visionary at the time of its release and sale to the public. From this book, I learned about Isabel the medical software that inspired the TV show series House (and the horrifying cause of why it was created to begin with), how poverty issues are being ...more
In my opinion, Ayres used the term "Super Crunching" way too inflationary. Yes, the book's title was derived by "super crunching" (simple A/B testing) itself, which is cool, we got it. However, instead of stressing a term that does not really have any technical meaning, Ayres could have written the book in a less repetitive way.
Also I think the book is a little outdated in the year 2020 to that effect that Ayres prevalently only explains what "Super Crunching" is able to do. There are nice insi
Oct 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
The book has a clear central message; intuition and empirical research (= super crunchers) complement one another. Quote: “ Randomization and regression are the twin pillars of Super Crunching”. What I like about the book is that it includes the merits of randomization (= experiments) and includes several large scale examples in US (local) policy making. Using these experiments is a nice response to an often heard critic of super crunching (now called big data or data science) that it is mere pr ...more
Nicholas Driscoll
Jan 15, 2021 rated it really liked it
I listened to the audio version.

This book was all about how statistics are taking over how we understand life and make business decisions, decisions about love, about farming, about crime, about health, and more, based on statistics rather than intuition. I got the book years ago for my girlfriend at the time, and only just got around to reading it.

The biggest weakness the book has now is that it's woefully out of date in 2020. So much has changed in the last 13 years, and I would be curious to
William Schram
Decisions are hard. Thankfully, there are ways to ease the difficulties inherent in day-to-day living. Massive data storehouses hold information on everything from your snack preferences to which path you take to work every day.

Ian Ayres describes statistical analysis techniques used by large corporations and governments to make predictions. Super Crunchers came out 15 years ago, so many techniques they discuss became refined over the years.

We all heard stories about the predictive power of data
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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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