Thursday, November 13, 2008

Reading Update #7a

I'm calling this update #7a instead of #8 because, even though it has been a week, I haven't finished anything I was reading at this time last week! I'm still reading Ceres Storm by David Herter upstairs, The Forest of Peldain by Barrington J. Bayley downstairs and A Tramp Abroad by Mark Twain at work.

I did however finish A History of the English Language by Michael Drout, in the car. As I said before I'm going to listen to this again when we drive to Asheville for Thanksgiving as I think my wife and daughter will get even more out of it than I did.

Since then I've been listening to Super Crunchers : Why Thinking-by-Numbers Is the New Way to Be Smart by Ian Ayres. The neat thing about listening to this book is that while I am coming up with ideas for the company I work for on how we can use our customer data more effectively; more importantly I am getting ideas for stories!

The first one he hand feeds the listener. He talks about how the IRS has so much information about us that if they decided to start super crunching and then providing that data to us, they could become the Information & Revenue Service. Imagine getting a letter in the mail from them telling you that couples with your income and your amount of consumer debt are 57% more likely to get divorce in the next two years than couples with no debt. The possibilities are endless. Or perhaps a story where the government secretly compiles all this data and uses it to finally figure out how to effectively govern. I'm sure I can find a moral dilemma or two in there somewhere.

I wrote about a story idea before, with computers predicting the future (just not in real time so far) but as they get more data, and faster processors they get better and better at it until they can see the future completely. Things in this book have been tickling at the edges of that story idea. Whether it's just providing some of the details along the way, or actually changing the story remains, to be seen.

Unfortunately listening to this in the car means I didn't write down a couple of germs of ideas it gave me. Hopefully they will come back to me as I listen to the rest of the book.

Not surprisingly I get most of my ideas for science fiction stories, when I read about science, not when I read fiction. You'd think I would read more science books because of this...


kevin said...


Kevin here. I just found your blog and read your remarks on Super Crunchers : Why Thinking-by-Numbers Is the New Way to Be Smart. I am also an avid reader and thought you might like to look at "The Numerati" by Stephen Baker. He goes into details of how our numbers are being used right now. I am a big fan of books on thinking and have some recommended on my website

I like the range of titles that you have reviewed here. I will definitely be back to fish for new books that I can add to my list.

One more thing - when I get ideas in the car I try to capture them on my cell phone. Most cell phones have a message recorder that works easily enough. Try it.

Mike said...

Kevin, thanks for checking out my blog. I just put The Numerati on hold at my local library, I'm currently fifth in line. Since I also fancy myself a bit of a math geek, this book sounds very interesting.

Thanks also for the advice about using my cell phone to take notes. I knew this feature was on it (a Morotola Q) but I don't think I've given that feature a thought since I bought it.

Thinker said...


Kevin again. You have a nice blog with some very thought provoking reading suggestions. I have added your blog to a recommended blog list at my site here:
Thinking-blog.html. My site is dedicated to showing people that they can think like a genius for at least 10 minutes a day. And 10 minutes of deep thinking will change your life.

All the best,


Mike said...


Well, that puts a little more pressure on me to do a good job here. I will definitely spend some time checking out your site.