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The Numerati Paperback – Bargain Price, September 9, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
More About the Author
A bit about my history. I graduated from college with a love of Spanish and a desire to be a writer. So I moved to Quito, Ecuador, taught English and wrote fiction. I couldn't sell my stories. So I turned to journalism, starting out at The Black River Tribune, in Ludlow, Vermont. My goal, though, was to be a foreign correspondent. So I freelanced in Spain and Argentina, got a job as a reporter at The Daily Journal in Caracas, Venezuela, and later, The El Paso Herald-Post. (Much of The Boost takes place along that section of the U.S.-Mexico border.) Finally I got a job as BusinessWeek's bureau chief in Mexico City, where I stayed for 5 and a half years and where my wife and I started our family (3 boys). We moved on to Pittsburgh, where I ended up spending a lot of time at Carnegie Mellon University and delving into technology. BW sent me to Paris in 1998 to cover European technology. We moved back to New York in 2002. Four years later, I wrote a cover story on the coming Big Data economy , Math Will Rock Your World. It led to The Numerati.
Shortly before leaving BusinessWeek, in December, 2009, I was visiting IBM Headquarters. Over lunch there I heard about the Jeopardy computer that researchers were building. That turned into Final Jeopardy.
Through 2013, I worked with Jonathan Bush, co-founder of athenahealth, on a book about our dysfunctional health care system, and how tech-savvy entrepreneurs could disrupt it. The book--Where Does it Hurt? An Entrepreneur's Guide to Fixing Health Care--comes out in May, 2014, a week before The Boost.
We live in Montclair, NJ, and our sons are in Pittsburgh, Madison, Wi, and Seattle.
Top Customer Reviews
Some of it is "house-of-the-future" stuff--imagine, for instance, a floor tile that will alert the doctor when your aging parent's gait seems more hesitant than usual. According to Baker, experts watching old reruns of Michael J. Fox shows can detect characteristic signs years before he was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.
And then there's the political game. With ever-more-insightful analysis, political math mavens have found that (thank god!) America is nowhere near as polarized as you would expect. Many a liberal Democrat lurks in the McMansion suburbs, and vice versa. But politics is tough--your grocery basket doesn't lie, but nobody wants to give the time of day to a pollster. How they craft the exact political messages that will get you to the voting booth might, oddly enough, be related to your shopping habits.
Shopping--now this is a chapter that should be of interest to every die-hard Amazon fan. Sophisticated algorithms designed to deduce your taste in novels or music can be frighteningly accurate (or, as my Quick Picks occasionally remind me, maddeningly stupid, but that's the topic for a different book). After finishing this chapter, I could think of half a dozen things my grocery store knows about me that I never told them.Read more ›
Baker admits he was a liberal arts major in college and doesn't pretend to fully understand the math behind the analysis. Obviously, an in-depth mathematical discussion would have been beyond the grasp of most readers and presumably the author. However, a little more detail on the methodologies beyond the simplistic descriptions would have given the book more substance and utility.
Data Mining and Data Warehousing have been around for many years. Retailers have used it extensively to understand their customers. Yet, Baker fails to discuss these established practices and compare them with this new emerging area.
Baker spends most of his book describing the people he interviews in a series of stories. The book is an easy read and is entertaining. If you read for entertainment and are interested in this subject, you will probably like this book. However, if you read for knowledge and are looking for a good, informative business book on this subject, it may disappoint you.
Like his table of contents (which is simply worker, shopper, voter, blogger, terrorist, patient, lover), Baker's book is sweeping if a bit terse in places. As a quant, I find Numerati an easy read with virtually no math but still enlightening even for the most quantitatively adept reader. There were several examples in Baker's book where I already knew of the mathod but had not heard of that application. He did some great research and covered a lot of topics in this giant and elaborate field of work.
My main concern for many management-level readers of this book is that in some cases Baker gives a reader just enough information to think they can apply it to a similar problem they have, falling into the "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing" trap. Again, this can be offset with a read of Hubbard's book. It might also have been helpful to talk about the rise of "crackpot rigour" in a world with lots of data and relatively few competent mathematical analysts (various "data mining" experts come to mind).
In all, its one of my favorite reads of the year. I felt like someone was finally casting light on my own obscure field.
1. The author treats this technology as a "black box" which makes it seem almost miraculous to the uninitiated reader. The first requirement in writing about any technology is to explain what it can and can't do; the book does not provide enough information about this.
2. Like all technology it has both good and bad uses (and most uses are good in some ways and bad in other ways), but the book does not provide enough information about the social and policy tradeoffs inherent in its development, use, and regulation.
In summary, the book provides a readers with a very basic introduction to the brave new world of statistical profiling, but doesn't explain enough about the technology or its consequences to be really satisfying.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Needs a reissue and update this is in 2005 context and Big Data hasPublished 4 months ago by Amazon Customer
Twenty or more words. Dam, that didn't work! Oh, maybe they meant twenty individual words. Dam, still not enough. There, that does it.Published 10 months ago by John E. Morrison
Maybe it is too late to read this book and similarly the title Super Crunchers. Anyone looking at either title is already aware of all their basic assertions. Read morePublished 21 months ago by DaveHwriter
Stephen Baker's presents a vision for future trends that cannot be simply extrapolated from the past. Read morePublished on December 6, 2013 by Michael G Kurilla
For anyone who follows S&T news regularly there is nothing new in this book. Don't waste your time or money. Read morePublished on November 24, 2013 by wonkifer
This book is amazing. I received it quickly and it was used but in great shape.
Would highly recommend if you want to be freaked out by numbers and data mining.
This is a fast moving subject and this book is becoming outdated. Still, I recommend all should read it as it discusses aspects of the subject not covered by other books on the... Read morePublished on May 3, 2013 by Guy Harrell