Ad verba per numeros

Monday, February 22, 2010, 04:32 PM
Last week I finished "Superfreakonomics" by Levitt and Dubner. In case you haven't read "Freakonomics" by the same authors just skip this review and read that book. In case you have read it and didn't like it just skip this review.

Still here? OK. My opinions on the book. First of all, I recommend it although I think Freakonomics is much better because, to me, Superfreakonomics is a reinstallment of the first book. I mean, I enjoyed S-F but in the same way I'd enjoy a good sequel to a great movie.

As with Freakonomics, S-F has a rather zigzagging narrative which, in a few chapters, makes hard following (even finding) the authors' discourse. However, I think it's a rather common style nowadays (I'm not sure if this is good, bad, or just the opposite) with some authors (for instance Malcolm Gladwell).

Again, the authors have chosen some topics which they (probably) thought could be controversial (aka sale-boosting) like prostitution and fighting global warming. Nonetheless to say, none of them are that controversial, and the global cooling measures described in the book are, at most, intriguing.

There are, however, two chapters that I think are really worth reading: those on terrorism and altruism. The first one, "Why should suicide bombers buy life insurance?", will probably appeal those of you with data-mining inclinations (although they just provide some glimpses on the topic). The later, "Unbeliavable stories about apathy and altruism", is, well, really interesting, and helps to understand the issues about controlled experiments in sociology and psychology (after all, any measurement changes the thing measured even when the instrument is just the researcher).

Additionally, I found the epilogue, "Monkeys are people too", really funny which is a kind of bonus for the book :)

My recommendation? Get the book and read it. Is it going to be useful for you? I don't really know, or the way in which it can be useful. However, if you are a researcher somewhat related to sociology/psychology/human interaction it can help you to be a little "freakier", to encourage you to ask tougher questions, and trying to think outside of the box. To me, this alone makes Superfreakonomics worth the money.

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