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Customer Review

23 of 40 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Inconsistent, muddled mess, February 3, 2007
This review is from: The Wisdom of Crowds (Paperback)
There are way too many problems with this book go into fully but just to scratch the surface: the examples are simple to the point of laughable, he constantly contradicts himself and his concepts are so vague that it's impossible to have any serious scientific discussion about it.

Bell curves (or as statisticians call standard distributions)do indeed have very cool properties. But this book relies completely on the fact that you don't know anything about advanced principles of statistics because if you did, you'd know why things sometimes work out how the book describes. But you'd also know that most of what he extrapolates can't be supposed based on the principles upon which they rest.

The book is essentially snake oil. A layman who doesn't understand chemistry might think it's magic. This book is trying to sell a mixture of econ and statistics as magic hoping you won't know enough about either subject to see through the sham.

And the worst part of all is that even if you put aside the problems and simply agreed with his argument, at its best it's a guarantee for mediocrity. Even the author states 1 or 2 people will always do better. Life rarely rewards 4th or 5th place! If you want a sure fire way to ensure you'll lose next year's football betting pool, this is the book for you.

This just may be the worst "science" book I've ever read. If you want good popular science book go read Freakenomics or anything by Bill Bryson.
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Initial post: Mar 14, 2007 10:14:03 AM PDT
Quote: "If you want a sure fire way to ensure you'll lose next year's football betting pool, this is the book for you."

That's funny, because I have participated in large NFL office pools every year for the past three years. I have won every single one of them by significant margins. My strategy? I bet EXACTLY on the spreads for each game, averaged using five or six popular oddsmakers. Every year there are people (probably like this reviewer) who tell me precisely why my strategy won't work. They tell me they've got the inside scoop on how certain teams play in certain conditions--yet every year I beat them all. The best part is, I know next to nothing about professional football. I simply have a respect for the law of large numbers and it's very obvious to me that I should continue to win each year as long as people continue refusing to believe that the oddsmakers are onto something. Lots of people provide reasons for why my strategy "shouldn't" work, but my winning record is pretty convincing evidence as to why it does.

I have not yet read this book, but if one of the harshest negative reviews is from someone who attempts to refute the book's premise with such an invalid example, I'm that much more inclined to buy it.
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