Super Crunchers – Part 2: The Significance of Super Crunching

This is the third of a four-part series reviewing Ian Ayres’ Super Crunchers: Why Thinking-by-Numbers Is the New Way to Be Smart.


Part 2 looks at the significance and cause of the trend of super crunching. Why its happening now, who should be happy and who should be sad about it, and what is expected for the future.

Chapter 6 Why Now?

One of the major reasons for the increase in super crunching is Moore’s Law, Kryder’s Law and their relatives. Processing power, Bandwidth and Storage keep increasing exponentially, while their costs keep decreasing (Chris Anderson discusses other implications in Free: Why $0.00 is the Future of Business). These trends are making it easier, cheaper and more efficient to super crunch. More and better data are available online every day because of the increasing ease of both collection and transmission.

Conclusion: Expect to see more super crunching in the future. This is just the beginning

Chapter 7 Are We Having Fun Yet?

As you can tell by this point in the book, super crunching is having a profound effect on our lives, whether we like it or not. Ayres gives examples in this chapter of who is losing out due to super crunching. Doctors and other intuitivists are losing out as the status of these professions decreases in relation to the awesome power of super crunching.

The problem is that experts tend to give settled answers that leave us feeling a sense of closure. Super crunching gives odds, which leave us unsettled and unclear about what will happen. This is more accurate, but people aren’t used to this.

We should see statistical decision making as the rise of meritocracy. Intuitivists are often praised for their historical record, and earn high fees on their future performance even though this is unreliable (See my review of Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s Fooled by Randomness for further discussion of the problems of confusing past performance with skill!), whereas statistical decision-making minimizes the chances of failure – let the best ideas (statistically) succeed, regardless of who put them forward!