It is hard not to make the comparison between “Numbers Rule Your World” and “Freakonomics”. Even the book has made a reference once. Ten real life case studies are used, paired up in five chapters, to illustrate how different aspects of statistics affect our lives. Blogger statistician Kaiser Fung has made the topic surprisingly accessible, narrated in an engaging manner. Each chapter, the author picks two contrasting statistically related topics, juxtaposes them by taking turn to have the story told, and arrives at a conclusion. The narration is honest, impartially inquired from different angles. One of the author’s objectives – besides convincing us that like it or not, numbers play a major role in our world today – I believe, is to expand our mind and horizon when interpreting certain situations as numbers are presented. And to appreciate what goes on behind the scene in your everyday life.
To impart the various aspects of statistical thinking upon his readers, the author uses the case studies of highway engineers versus Disney ‘Imagineers’, epidemiologists versus credit modelers, insurers versus test developer (education), anti-doping agencies (sport) versus polygraph (lie detector), and the chances of jet crashes versus jackpots. Each case study – unlike Freakonomics – is backed up sufficiently by figures and facts. At times, I have to slow down my reading and think through the numbers, which I do greatly appreciate.
In practical term, how would reading “Numbers Rule Your World” help your work and life? For one, when you take in the news around you, you may wish to see things in a different perspective. Should you take in the reported figures on the papers as they are? Why are things or processes made that way? Some see an imminent risk, others do not. Should you follow the crowd? At the end of the book, the author has made a bold statement that if you know how to use numbers in making everyday decisions, you rule the world. While I am unsure if most of us has the ability and even access to a reliable data-set in using numbers in making decisions, this book does change the way how I see this world operates when it comes down to numbers.