Peter’s is a book to nurture free thinkers in a complex and treacherous world. A wise mind knowing the power of subverted objectivities and subjectivities, he carefully avoids definitive statements (I love his recurrent paragraphs “Should we or should not we”), but he definitely deliberates the crucial risks and benefits to align one’s vision to ranked intuitions and ordinal approximations of reality provided by others.
Like foreword author Scott Page, I found the book relatable, personable, likable and humorous. The book reflects wonderfully Peter’s rich life: it is culturally broad, has the earnest curiosity of a child wrapped in the mastery of an influential scholar. It also shows no hesitation for the author to poke fun at himself, which helps create a strong bond with the reader. It covers all the main bases of its problem, -sociology, psychology, economy, cognitive science, neuroscience, computer science and mathematics-, but woven so discreetly in
the background of an entertaining narrative that the reader might never know (s)he has absorbed a hefty dose of hard science. With all massive events in global politics showing the power of social games of influences, it is also a very timely contribution to the intellectual discourse.
1 . Overall, do the organization and progression of the book make sense? How could the structure be improved?
I found the narrative flow to be very adequate. From a bird’s eye view, the epilogue chapter 9 has a slightly uneven structure, but the reading remains fluid and pleasant throughout.
2 . Are the core arguments clear? Are they convincing and well-supported? Are these insights original? What would help?
Judging from all the areas where I have expertise, (because the book is written in a casual style that eschews the hyperformalism of academic writing), the core arguments are all solidly anchored in science, and reflect the original thinking of its author.
3 . Is there anything related to the scholarship of this work that we, outside the field, might not notice as a potential problem? Are the references up to date? Is the author engaged in the most current conversation on the topic?
The conversation is absolutely current.
4 . Are there any glaring omissions? Is any material superfluous?
No glaring omission and a quite complete overview of the problem, though if I may, I would like to suggest the following:
-a flowchart illustrating the main steps in the process of ranking would be very valuable, perhaps p.16.
-the book could have a description of Steven’s 1946 magnus opus “On the theory of scales of measurement”, perhaps p.97 in “the tyranny of metrics”. In particular, Stevens theory suggests why some ordinal violations might be encountered: rank of ranks, or composite measures are not the same due to discrepancy between ordinal and interval data.
-AI seem unescapable nowadays, as an approach to complexity reduction. Perhaps a
word on it is needed? Also progress in AI and Mathematics might allow us to reverse engineer the obscure ratings? And interestingly, mathematically discover the anomalies just like statisticians can tell corrupted voting in elections or fake statistics in scientific papers?
-I became thirsty for a longer section that would view rankings, not as a static construct, but as a nonlinear dynamical system, with its sudden phase transitions, reorganizations, changes. And some light on when/how those sudden change come about. Loss of trust in a system of ranking. Novelty. Etc. There is some of it in a few places, including p. 121 with self-fulfilling prophecies and at the beginning of the epilogue for the nonlinear part of it. In term of layperson’s experience, the mess of airfare online purchase, with online
trackers that up the price to return visitors so as to game the consumer interest Vs price ranking, would be worth contextualizing.
-I view ranking as a spatial cognitive operation. I suspect a literature on eye tracking could come in support. And then, the intricacies with memory and the hippocampus become clearer. I wonder if a neurobiological discussion on this issue could be had.
5 . Who would find this book useful and interesting? Whom do you see as the
I suspect that this book could reach a broad audience. It does have a multidisciplinary composition. But foremost, it is written in a very approachable manner, and in our new world obsessed with social media (and the ordinal order that it encourages), I anticipate that this book could become a darling both within and far remote from the academic circles that have seen Peter’s work thus far.
6 . What is your “bottom line” assessment of the project? Aside from copyediting, is the manuscript ready to be published in its current state? What are your specific recommendations for the author?
Some minor improvements could make the book publication-ready. It reads very nicely, is terrific in style, and is timely. I loved every bit of it.
Notes and other comments: …