Small book review: Super Crunchers
As written in an earlier post, Super Crunchers is a new book about data mining by Ian Ayres. Super crunching, according to Ayres is the action of applying data mining algorithms to real situations in order to make better decisions from data. I will make it clear right now: Super Crunchers will not give you examples of complex data mining techniques in real situations. Most of the book shows the use of randomized experiments (there are also a few pages on neural network, but that’s all).
This book is nevertheless a very interesting reading for many reasons. First, the author did a very good job in introducing the basic ideas behind data mining for non-specialist readers. In addition, Ayres has collected a bunch of small, and very interesting, stories about people crunching data (wine quality prediction, baseball, etc.). In every situations, the author shows how crunching numbers help people make decisions but also how difficult it is to make non-expert believe in your results. This is, to my opinion, the most interesting aspect of the book.
Super Crunchers is very well written (I’m realizing now that I write that for most of my book reviews, but believe me you’ll enjoy reading this book). After giving some examples, Ayres describes the actors of this industry (super crunching). He then introduces the idea of randomized experiments. There is also a nice chapter about the confrontation “Experts Versus Equations”. He concludes by explaining why this enthusiasm for super crunching is happening only now and not before.
Finally, although the action of super crunching is certainly more about applying statistic methods (rather than data mining) to real situations, this is a must-have book, even for specialists in data mining. For interested reader, an interview of Ian Ayres is accessible here.
Ayres, I., Super Crunchers, Why Thinking-by-Numbers Is the New Way to be Smart, Bantam Books, 2007, 260p.