After having read Ian Ayres’ Super Crunchers I feel more like listing what the book is not than what it is.
It is not about Super Crunchers. The title was chosen just for its appeal. Ayres explains that he experimented (using google ads) a little with different titles to find out what wold generate the most interest and consequently sales. Super Crunching is about data mining in huge data sets, Super Crunchers is more about raising the general awareness of the impact statistics can and should have on everyday decisions.
The book is not about the people that do the number crunching, it rather is a collection of anecdotal stories that point to the increasing possibilities data nowadays offer the decision maker.
Nor is the book a homage to statistical methods and theoretical research in statistics and econometrics. In his stories, Ayres sticks to the most simple statistics or jumps to something very far removed, neural networks. He presents some applications, some are first-hand (and never using huge data sets) others are only third-hand re-iterations. He adds a lot of personal details, politics and own business ventures. This makes the book kind of diverting to read. Yet I do not feel these diversions add to the supposed topic of Super Crunchers.
And finally, even though Ayres adds a little cautious note after a lot of praise what can be done with data and how we all surely will benefit from losing our informational self-determination, our privacy to the data mining industry and government, he falls short of any standard a lawyer should adhere to when it comes to privacy issues.
Having said all that, do not get me wrong: I enjoyed reading the book. Only afterwards I noticed all its different short-comings.