The Perfect Swarm: The Science of Complexity in Everyday Life 1st Edition, Kindle Edition
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“Fisher makes intriguing connections” and “demonstrates that statistics don’t always lie, and sometimes even tell important truths.”
“Fisher jumps with proficiency from locusts to pedestrians to computer algorithms to stock markets.”
BBC Focus Magazine
“This would be my nominee for book of the year, if it wasn’t still only January. Who knows what may turn up in the next 12 months? Whatever it is, though, will find Fisher a hard act to follow.”
Scott M. Cooper, MIT research affiliate; co-author of Coolhunting
“It’s a rare pleasure to read a book that builds on great ideas that have come before, pushes concepts forward, and challenges the intellect—while at the same time being eminently accessible. This is just such a book.”
David Sumpter, professor of mathematics, Uppsala University
“Len Fisher reveals how the study of animal swarms allows us to better understand our own society. By blending personal stories with a clear presentation of new theoretical ideas he shows why rumors, ideas and information spread so rapidly through groups.”
Gregory Sword, associate professor of biology, University of Sydney
“That complexity can be simple to explain might seem counterintuitive, but in The Perfect Swarm: The Science of Complexity in Everyday Life, Len Fisher demonstrates just that. This book provides a thoughtful, entertaining, and—most important—easy to understand treatment of how patterns emerge and problems can be solved when many individuals interact in very simple ways. Clear and fluent, The Perfect Swarm is an enjoyable source of insight for those who would like to better understand how many seemingly complex things in the world really aren’t so complex after all.”
Peter A. Gloor, author of Swarm Creativity and Coolhunting
“The Perfect Swarm does a marvelous job of explaining the network effects that determine our daily life. I highly recommend it to anybody seeking practical solutions to the puzzling complexities of everyday life, and especially to anyone interested in the mathematical and physical underpinnings of swarm intelligence, swarm business, and swarm creativity.”
Ian Stewart, Author of Professor Stewart’s Cabinet of Mathematical Curiosities
“From locusts watching Star Wars to Murphy’s Law of Management, The Perfect Swarm hits all the buttons. This is a wonderful tour through the new mathematics of swarms, flocks, and crowds, and it makes the emerging science of complex systems seem simple. Easy to read and highly informative.”
Lord Robert M. May, Zoology Department, Oxford University
“I am not sure there is a ‘science of complexity,’ but there undoubtedly are a lot of interesting ideas emerging about underlying simplicities, and their implications, within many seemingly complicated systems. Len Fisher’s book is a truly excellent and clearly-written guide to this exciting area.”
“By focussing wholly on the science of complexity without using narrative ploys to disguise it, Fisher covers a vast subject quickly in a compact book. The Perfect Swarm is a valuable contribution.”
About the Author
- ASIN : B0030CMLK2
- Publisher : Basic Books; 1st edition (November 17, 2009)
- Publication date : November 17, 2009
- Language : English
- File size : 1729 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 290 pages
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #1,450,994 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
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These examples, and many more, are explained and discussed. Why would jury trials be more fair if the jurors didn't deliberate but simply voted? How can asymmetrical columns prevent crushing deaths in panicked crowds? How can passing a traffic jam actually make it worse?
Locusts swarm, ants swarm, bees swarm but they do it with very different rules. It's important to know whether to behave like an ant, a locust or a bee when deciding where to go or how to get there, or why. You can know when to trust your instincts and when to consult an expert -- or a random group of strangers. "Collective wisdom" such as the voters in a democracy are more likely to do the right thing than any -- repeat ANY -- single politician. Kind of restores your faith in the system, doesn't it? Unfortunately the flip side is that if there are three or more choices on a ballot, the winner is almost always the choice of a minority. And if each person has a less than 50/50 chance of coming up with the right answer, consultation is more likely to result in a disastrous "Group Think" than the correct answer (one example given: the lead-up to the Iraq invasion).
Swarm intelligence, as you can see, is a good bit more nuanced than the Toyota Production System: Beyond Large-Scale Production or What Color is Your Rainbow? would have us believe. Besides decision-making and collaborative thinking, Fisher discusses the six degrees of Kevin Bacon, military censorship, the World Wide Web, the Fibonacci sequence and the Golden Ratio, Benford's Law, Ramsey's Theorem, the 80/20 Rule, and dozens, maybe hundreds of other consequences. His writing reminds a bit of James Burke, whose mind races a million miles per hour bringing up unlikely but perfectly-logical Connections in his discussion. It's heady, brilliant and thrilling stuff.
The book proper is 172 pages followed by over 70 pages of notes, sidebars, elaborations, web links and bibliography for further reading.
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.
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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