Monday, October 08, 2007

Fun read

Attend a lot of seminars in the social sciences and become (rightly) wary of data mining and regressions. One colleague memorably referred to each as "an admission of defeat."

But Ian Ayres' Super Crunchers: Why Thinking-by-Numbers Is the New Way to Be Smart is must-reading for the uninitiated, especially those of the vast innumerate but educated conspiracy.

There is practically something for everyone. I did not know about "Isabel" which helps physcians (who use it) diagnose patients' ailments. This is just one of the areas where Ayers emphasizes the benefits of a new division of labor between man and machine.

Ayers has a strange aversion to super-crunching in the service of price discrimination. But the practice involves transfers that keep many businesses in the game while serving a larger audience.

But above all, the book is fun to read. It should pique interests in many quarters. In a better world, it would be required reading in high schools everywhere -- presented by teachers who can grasp and appreciate the topic. One can dream.