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Books I Have Been Reading

I just finished Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki & How to Lie with Statistics by Darrell Huff. The first book was a very accessible read on the subject of Behavioral Finance which I have always found fascinating. (Basically prices in the stock market don’t reflect necessarily reflect the true value of any particular security. Rather they reflect the value that I think other people will put on the security. And their values are in turn influenced by the value that they think others will have for the security. Very fractal.)

How to Lie with Statistics is a classic that kept coming up on bibliographies and was cited by various authors enough times that I finally picked up a copy from the local library. The copy I found was dated and there were several passages that were misogynistic and racist. Despite those problems it was entertaining and reminded me of reading Cialdini during Palmer’s classes at UC Davis. I have always been wary of statistics that I didn’t calculate myself. (Some of this is my DIY bent.) But in most cases statistics are not presented properly and it is impossible to determine how the metrics were gathered. Huff does a great job of showing you how to twist numbers to your own advantage. It is all written tongue in cheek but not quite. I can swear that I have been in meetings where people have purposefully used methods like these to paint a flattering picture of failure.

As they say in the recording industry, “You can’t polish a turd.”

This morning I started Smart Mobs by Howard Rheingold. The prose seems to a bit breathless in the early bits but I have high hopes since I enjoyed some of Howard’s other books.

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