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12/05/2009

SuperFreaknenomics

Thanks to Google Offline, I can now draft emails on a long haul plane from US to China! That means I can also draft blog entries - yes, I'm aware I can do this on Word as well, but I just don't like Microsoft that much and would much prefer doing it through email. (Um, plus the China Firewall prevents me from accessing Blogspot) The only downside is that I can't reference other pages until I get a connection.

Just finished the Freakenomics sequel SuperFreakenomics. As far as sequel goes, this performs along the same lines: something new and refreshing, but overall not as good as the first one.

The book starts out with a bang (pardon the pun) with a discussion on prostitution, leading to a broad discussion of gender inequalities and some reasons behind it. Fascinating read, and not just because of the price of different sexual tricks and the story of one entrepreneur in the industry. I love, for example, the brief discussion on the discrepancies of male and female earnings, explained mostly by difference in average hours worked (women work less) and appetite for more earnings (men are more motivated to earn money - um, yeah, it's called capitalistic greed).

The following two chapters are a downer: one was a discussion on the value of data (duh) and how it can lead to terrorists (The Wire has taught me well: Follow the money, and you open all sorts of shit cans). Another was a discussion on whether humans are inherently good or bad with a slight dig towards popular beliefs and popular media. Pretty boring.

Then came the chapters that fired up people: seat belts and global warming. Obviously, they put these chapters at the end cus they knew it was going to be controversial:
  • Seat belts should be sufficient for older children and that the more expensive car seats are merely a money making machine that prey on parent's insecurities but doesn't help save the child more than a seat belt would.
  • There may not be a global warming.  Even if there was global warming, the solution is cheap and simple and only $250 million.
My thoughts on the seat belts: listen to the economists with no stakes (other than their own children) in the trade. It's the most impartial opinion you'll get and, hey, you can keep testing it to see if their are right with the initial test results. Naysayers need to look at the data more and stop being too emotional about the authors trying to kill their kids.

My thoughts on global cooling and geo-engineering: INTERESTING. I want to know more. And I think here is where SuperFreakenomics fail a bit. A lot of "INTERESTING", but not a whole lot of discussions on those points. I wish the book were (gasp) longer on these chapters. Perhaps the simple solution was too simple and just was tht short? I find that hard to believe. Anyway, the Chinese have always been about geo-engineering (Mao says 人定勝天, people can always triumph nature), clearing the skies of Beijing for the Olympics and the national holidays. Why didn't they consult their Chinese counterparts? Surely there's data to show effects and impacts?

Anyway, too short on things that matter, too much on topics that are more "hey, look at me!". Nonetheless, it was a refreshing read on the plane and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Highly recommended.

1 comment:

Sharon said...

And we all know what happened after the artificial tricks BJ did to clear the skies for the Olympics...