Thursday, November 25, 2010

Book Review: Superfreakonomics

Book Review: Superfreakonomics by Steven Levit & Stephen Dubner

This book is sequel of sorts, to the best selling Freakonomics by the same authors. While I found the first book on economics interesting but lacking in purpose, this one definitely had more of a definite message. That message is this: man is moved by incentives and the interplay of those incentives sometimes has very interesting implications for the various problems and curiosities that life presents. My favorite chapter was the one on how small (and cheap) fixes are often the best fixes. The creative use of statistics is another big theme in this book. One early example of the interpretation of statistics consists of the story of a physician who found that he could reduce greatly the maternal mortality rate in his hospital if he required doctors to wash their hands before they did a delivery, and this was decades before Louis Pasteur discovered bacteria (too bad he was thought of as a madman and eventually died in an asylum!). The authors also show how children whose mothers fasted during pregnancy because of Ramadan are more likely to suffer from behavioural and learning disabilities. The chapters on prostitution, and the nature of altruism (are we naturally altruistic or not?) were also quite fascinating. For anyone who is an inventor, a free-thinker, or who simply wants to stretch their mind you will enjoy this book. I rate in 4.1 ninja stars out of 5.

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