Superfreakonomics


Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes, & Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance.
This is the brilliant sequel to the bestselling phenomenon Freaknomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner which we’ll review at some stage as well. Basically, this is a book about numeracy. At least, that’s how I’ve read it… It was my numeracy reading over the last Christmas break. Levitt is an economist and Dubner is a journalist and together they take the usually rather dreary subject of economics and turn it into something that is brilliantly interesting and even funny. Yes… apparently, even economics can be humourous.
Superfreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance

You can buy this book… Click the image to purchase

Why should I read it?

Well… all of us need to read professionally and we are often swamped by books we have to read… or should read. But, one of my convictions now is that we need to read outside of our normal or professional fields. My only self-imposed limitation here is that I don’t like to read to far out to left field or it’s just not interesting. So I look for books that have something in common with my interests and that still take me on a new journey of discovery. That’s what this book does. It brings together the stuff of everyday life and presents it through the lens of economics – microeconomics. Sounds dull, but it’s not. I couldn’t put it down.

What’s the basic idea?

The basic idea is that economics is not really a subject that you can study. Now this made sense to me immediately as I found that I couldn’t study economics at high school what used to be called 7th form. I failed to see the relevance of economics to anything and subsequently nearly failed. Levitt and Dubner’s claim is that economics is more of a set of tools to look at the world through. They use numbers to make sense of things. This is the numeracy stuff. It’s also another area that I nearly failed at in high school due to what I think now is probably poor teaching and lack of application.

What these guys can do with with data is fascinating far beyond the impoverished highschool stats and economics that I had the misfortune to encounter. There are two underlying assumptions in the book (and for us as educators and people involved in business:

  1. A good set of data can go a long way to describing human behaviour as long as the proper questions are asked of it.
  2. It’s our job (their job in the book) to come up with such questions.

Want to know more?

Sure… What about a list of some of the questions that these guys are trying to unpack through looking at the data and numbers that they have access to:

  • Is walking drunk more dangerous than driving drunk? (Actually, yes… according to the book)
  • Have rural indian women become more autonomous after seeing cosmopolitan images on their TV sets?
  • How likely is it to die in a shark attack?
  • Why should suicide bombers buy life insurance?

Now these probably sound intriguing but you’re wondering where the relevance is right? I think the connection to real life is that the kinds of stories that they tell are about human behaviour and that they can use the numbers and data that they have available to make sense of what is going on. Or at least to be more well informed. As 21st century consumers of information we are surrounded by an ever increasing volume of data about… well everything. Read this book for an insight on how to make sense of it all. The data’s not going away. Ever. But we need to increase our numeracy skills when it comes to arranging it, interpreting it, and making sensible conclusions about it.

You can buy this book… Click the image to purchase

Superfreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance

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