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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Let's Vote On It
In many ways this book is a continuation of How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer. Whereas Lehrer explores the edge between actually thinking about our choices versus going with your gut, Len Fisher's The Perfect Swarm: The Science of Complexity in Everyday Life explores some of the surprising mathematics of decision-making. If you have 100 candidates for a job, you should...
Published on March 31, 2010 by Robert Carlberg

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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lessons in complexity from nature.
The Perfect Swarm is one of a crop of books that explore the emerging scientific thinking of complexity and order. The subtitle `The Science of Complexity in Everyday Life' and the somewhat playful book title hint that this is one of the more populist books on the subject.

Fisher covers a broad spectrum of subjects and around 30% of the book is devoted to an...
Published on September 3, 2011 by Steven Unwin


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4.0 out of 5 stars Nature's Rules for Complex and Collective Behavior, October 25, 2013
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Len Fisher's "The Perfect Swarm" is a great reference for understanding the science behind human complexity and everyday life. He describes the concept of swarm intelligence by using examples in nature and comparing them to human behavior and self-organization, all while using whimsy and amusement to frame his text. Fisher states that out of chaos, mathematical patterns emerge to create order, and this order can be seen from coral and ants to sand dunes and bees. What's more, he describes how the collective intelligence of swarms can help humans make better decisions as groups and as individuals within a group. Using humor only adds to Fisher's narrative and provides a break from the mathematical conceptual foundation of the swarm intelligence paradigm. Ultimately, Fisher provides a solid model for revealing how complexity emerges from simple rules in nature, and how humans can imitate those behaviors to better understand our chaotic world. Although I have not yet read Fisher's book "Rock, Paper, Scissors," I am eager to do so simply because of this engaging and enlightening book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting viewpoint, May 10, 2013
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For anyone who loves math or the types of tv shows that are on National Geographic, Science and Discovery channel, this book will be a big hit. Readable while covering complex content.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Strong start, weak finish, March 13, 2013
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The first 5 or so chapters are really interesting and include examples and (non-technical) explanations. But, then things really start to drag as the author veers way off the topic of "swarm" and into a bunch of unrelated topics.

I would have preferred at least a bit of an explanation to some of the results that were presented. Presumably one can find this in the notes, but having at least the outline of the proof would have been helpful.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and practical book on complexity, August 13, 2011
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This book has an easy to read style with lots of examples on difficult complex problems and solutions that you can use in your everyday life. First it starts with preliminary information on swarm dynamics, then moves to using teams to solve complex problems. It talks about connectors which is explained in much detail in The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference. There are lots of examples on cognitive behaviors like how does forgetting help to solve problems.

If you are new to the topic of complexity and like to have practical information without going too much into the theory, this would be the right book to start.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect Swarm, December 18, 2010
Fisher presents ideas and explanations in ways that are easy to read and understand. He also does a great job explaining how these concepts are relevant to individuals and society. A unique book that is definitely worth reading for those with an inquiring mind. If you like nature, math, sociology and/or economics then I think you'd enjoy this book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excelent book for a novice, November 23, 2010
I have greatly enjoyed reading this book.It`s an excelent introduction to notions as swarm inteligence,chaos theory and decision making process.This book is a journey that progresses in nine stages.It starts with the evolution of swarm inteligence in the natural world,continues with an analysis of group inteligence in human society and it ends with a look into complexity itself.

For a profesional this book might be too simple but for anybody else is a highly recomended reading.I was surprised to find here even some very pertinent insights in politics!

I am coaching a science club at an elementary school and I will use ideas from this book for some projects in which I hope to help the young students to understand better the world we are living in and some of the "not so obvious"mechanisms that governs it.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars beware., March 18, 2013
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algo41 "algo41" (philadelphia, pa United States) - See all my reviews
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Fisher describes his book writing process as making notes of what interests him, and then writing to a deadline. It shows. "The Perfect Swarm" touches on lots of interesting work, and Fisher does try to relate everything to everyday life. Even when the everyday life example is not a direct application of an algorithm, it can give the reader a feel for it.

The deadline is what gets Fisher into trouble (to put it nicely). Fisher has a huge fear of writing above the reader's comprehension. In chapter one he uses a box for some more difficult material so that some readers may skip the box (an approach Sharon Blakeslee uses so effectively). Fisher does not use a box again until the penultimate chapter. Instead he refers to his end of book notes, which have some nuggets mixed in with simple references and odds and ends, none of these notes footnoted, even the references - you are supposed to just read through them (one note seems to discredit the scientist, Milgram, Fisher happily discusses in the main text). Fisher also avoids technical "details", so I was left with basic questions about the algorithms he discusses. Actually, Fisher seems to prefer lists to algorithms, and many of these are quite boring.

Fisher is often imprecise and perhaps it is just as well he avoids much technical material. In discussing Benford's law he refers to logarithms beginning more often with low digits, but as he states, the logarithms are random - this causes the numbers to which they refer, such as numbers in an accounting statement, to more often begin with low digits. In explaining Ramsey's Law, Fisher omits the "at least" repeatedly (p.164) as in the number of people necessary for there to be either (at least) "m" mutual acquaintances or "n" mutual strangers". In discussing degrees of separation he talks of 100 people, each of them knowing 100 people (p.110) without qualifying that there has to be no overlap in the people who are known for his example to work. When Fisher discusses "group think" he confounds cases where the actors have financial incentive to group think (bankers before financial crisis), or are culturally conditioned (ethnic bias) to group think which arises directly from shorter term peer influence. In discussing the problems of over fitting models with too many variables he muddies the basic point by suggesting that such variables really help explain the past rather than mistaking chance for causality. Based on a stock market heuristic that worked for only 6 months Fisher tries to make a point.
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1 of 14 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I didn't finish it!, December 7, 2010
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The first few chapters were OK but they contained nothing that hasn't been covered better in other books. During subsequent chapters I began to lose interest but kept reading in the hope that it would get better. Eventually I decided to cut my losses an leave the book unfinished. You could spend you time better reading some other book.
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The Perfect Swarm: The Science of Complexity in Everyday Life
The Perfect Swarm: The Science of Complexity in Everyday Life by Len Fisher (Paperback - March 8, 2011)
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