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Publisher's Summary

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 audiobook, economist Ian Ayres shows how today's best and brightest organizations are analyzing massive databases at lightening speed to provide greater insights into human behavior. They are the Super Crunchers. From Internet sites like Google and Amazon that know your tastes better than you do, to a physician's diagnosis and your child's education, to boardrooms and government agencies, this new breed of decision-maker is calling the shots. And they are delivering staggeringly accurate results. How can a football coach evaluate a player without ever seeing him play? Want to know whether the price of an airline ticket will go up or down before you buy? How can a formula out-predict wine experts in determining the best vintages? Super crunchers have the answers.

In this brave new world of equation versus expertise, Ayres shows us the benefits and risks, who loses and who wins, and how super crunching can be used to help, not manipulate, us. Gone are the days of solely relying on intuition to make decisions. No businessperson, consumer, or student who wants to stay ahead of the curve should make another keystroke without listening to Super Crunchers.

©2007 Ian Ayres (P)2007 Books on Tape

Critic Reviews

"Lively and enjoyable....Ayres skillfully demonstrates the importance that statistical literacy can play in our lives." ( Publishers Weekly)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings


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  • Overall
  • Jon
  • Columbus, IN, USA
  • 01-31-08

Great book on

There is an old expression, "the man who knows 'how' will always have a job... reporting to the man that knows 'why'".

This is a fantastic book on the 'what' and 'why' of statistical analysis but if you are looking for a book on 'how' to do a regression analysis, you would want to find a different book.

I teach Six Sigma Black Belt classes and after listening to this book I ordered 25 copies to give to everyone in a class I am teaching. What I really liked about this book is that the author uses a wide variety of examples, from medicine to casinos to car dealers to credit cards to hiring practices, etc. etc. In each example, the author explains how data mining and number crunching has been used to make amazingly accurate predictions that most experts in that particular field did not think possible.

The book is fascinating from beginning to end. It is also a little Orwellian in places as you begin to realize that the surveillance technology show cased in books such as "1984" and movies such as "Minority Report" are much closer to reality than most people realize.

Between and traditional books, I read/listen to about 30 books a year and I would place this book in my top 5 favorite list over the past couple of years.

27 of 27 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Very Interesting but drawn out

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 descriptions about how information is collected or how it is analyzed - most just making the case that you should collect the data and that you should analyze it. In this sense, it is not a 'how to' book but rather 'why you should' book. Although I am great believer in this approach and in fact, do it for a living, after about the 2/3 mark, I found that the book became a bit tedious as there many examples of the same thing and there was little description of how people are actually collecting information.
I realize these types of books are difficult to write because they try and balance information and entertainment with minimal actual technical detail. However, I thought there should have more technical detail in fewer examples. I am guessing that readers attracted to this book have more than a passing intested in the technology and methods.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

It's a whole new world

Very clearly written, and nicely narrated book that makes academic subject matter understandable and applicable.

It's disconcerting to be one of the "experts" that will be overwritten by the results of super-crunchers.

From the relationship between wines and weather, to medical decision making, the "super crunchers" are truly affecting our day to day lives.

This book is a clearly written, thought provoking, and an enjoyable listening experience.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Performance
  • Story
  • Michael
  • Walnut Creek, CA, United States
  • 09-07-13

Not Super and too Crunchy

Super Crunchers has a lot of interesting examples of using statistics effectively. Many of the examples are not really Big Data, just normal old statistics with normal old number crunching. Only a few were really examples of SUPER crunching.

I found the author more than a little gung ho on the subject of Super Crunching, one sided, a bit self promoting, and my least favorite, at bit axe grinding. There was no value in the John Lott/Mary Rosh story other than to kick an opponent who is already down. Ayres spends little time looking at the potentially problematic aspects of super crunching either social, political, or technical. He does not mention the garbage in garbage out problem and seems to wave away most other downsides. I did learn a few things from Super Crunchers but I much preferred, and learned more from, The Numerati. It seems the author wants the book to be like Freakanomics which it is not.

The narration was quite good dealing well with some pretty challenging text.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Having heard the book...I want to meet the author

Wow...what an awesome book! I think the author did a fantastic job of making the subject matter approachable. This book is written to an audience that is educated, but doesn't assume that you are a mathematics wizard.

I came away with a greater understanding of "number crunching" from both a perspective of understanding the science, and understanding its effects on our everyday lives.

If you are interested in this sort of material, I think Mr. Ayers book is a fabulous place to dive in.

21 of 25 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Philip
  • Kapelle, Netherlands
  • 02-09-08

Nice, but nowhere near

I purchased this audiobook hoping it would be as good as Freakonomics by Steven Levitt, but ended up somewhat disappointed with Supercrunchers. I definitely like the case that is made for data driven decision making, but found too many negative points to warrant a rating above 3 (out of 5).

There is not enough business relevance in the book, as there is way too much talk of topics like evidence based medicine which do not necessarily appeal to business people. In some parts of the book, the audiobook adaptation is poor, as the narrator tries to take the listener through bullet points and hard to understand quizzes. Lastly, I found the book very preachy and rambling on the "big brother is watching you" theme.

Fortunately, towards the end, the book made a very compelling case for practical application of relevant statistics in the popular press, with the 2 standard deviation discussion. A good ending to an otherwise average book.

11 of 13 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Extremely Informative

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and felt it was one of best business books that I have heard in the last 5 years.

I enjoyed Freakonomics. It was interesting but had little impact on my daily or professional life. Within the first hour of this book, I could see how the subject matter could be applied to my company. Before even finishing the book, we have initiated two projects to install data driven decision making. The national association for my trade has also agreed to my request to gather transactional data from our membership.

I also particularly enjoyed the author's discussion of Bayes' Theorem and standard deviations towards the end of the book. These are great tools for understanding, analyzing and questioning statitistical references reported in the media.

If you are looking for a light and entertaining book, I would not recommend this one. If you are a business manager, executive or owner looking for proven ways to analyze and improve your business than this book is for you.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Drathers on and on and on with some amusement

This books seems more like a mediocre written Doctoral Thesis than a real book. It tries to be interesting and does have some good theories and points. Could have been summarized in 2 hours instead of 6. I almost stopped listening to it. DEFINITELY NOT like Freakanomics or Blink.

9 of 13 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Nalph Rader

I am loving this book. But, at 42:09 seconds in chapter 1, the narrator says "Nalph Rader reads Mother Jones. " I listened twice to confirm. Such a lot of good work by the author negated by unprofessional narration and sloppy direction. I can only imagine what is to come

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Roger
  • Orlando, Florida United States
  • 12-26-07

Statisticians Rule!

This book shows how all forms of business, medicine, the law, and social activities are being measured, analyzed, and optimized. It is important to recognize that decisions by hunches is a dying practice.

4 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Cyril
  • 12-12-07


Good but not great - Many curiousities are described which have come about in the age of super processing and data storage capability. Some insight into the suprisingly competitive world of stats based economists