Freakonomics

I've recently finished reading Freakonomics.

It's a book about the application of economics and data-mining to every day's life

The authors analyze various subjects of our daily life, from the mundane to the very controversial and use large quantity data as diverse as statistics, accounting book from the chicago gang land, test scores in high schools,...) to make a sense out of them, to find out what drive one's behaviors and why .

It also reveals a lot about people's incentives and human nature.
Incentives, this is the keyword.

The interesting part is when he compares subjects that are "apparently" not really related: it's fun, sometimes scandalous but it makes me see the world differently.

There's the saying "there's three kinds of lies, lies, darn lies and statistics"

The authors are making a lot of efforts to show that many things could be said on behalf of statistics with none being true.

It also leads them to illustrate the traps of confusing 'correlation' and 'causality' as well as debunking 'conventional wisdom' myths, lazy thinking or rushed conclusions, all of this based on every-day examples.

Also what amazed me, is that in the edition I've read most of the arguments are built on data obtained either from surveys, government, schools, accountants, ...
It worked because there aggregate data in big quantity.
And Internet seems not to have been used for that purpose.
Internet seems to be the biggest source of anonymous aggregate data, with all the server logs, the customer databases, browser histories, chat logs, search logs, message board's threads , recommendations, ...
You could explore a vast amount of individual behaviors and facets of human nature that way.

Although the book is about economics, nowhere in the book it's explained what it is and little is said about the methodologies used. Maybe the tag line of the book 'A Rogue economist explores ...' should have been a clue.
Anyway the book explains brilliantly two notions like incentives and causality/correlation.

The book is entertaining and easy to read, it inspires curiosity.
Another downside may be is that the length of treatment for all the subjects is not balanced, and the author's interest in crimes economics and incentives can be felt by the depth of the crime-related subjects, which is highly interesting but there so many other things to talk about in this world.

Though I've finished the book too quickly to my taste, I think it's worth reading.

I consider it more as a "taster" or "mind opener" for further reading (any recommendations?) rather than a complete reference.

My reading of the book coincided with the release of a new edition.
I don't know what's new though. The edition I've read is from 2005 I think.
It's the one with nice Eboy graphics on the hardback cover.

Freakonomics on Amazon

Technorati Tags:
book, economics, data-mining, daily-life, introduction, review, Eboy

Rija Ménagé

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