The Numerati

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Overview

Every day we produce loads of data about ourselves simply by living in the modern world: we click web pages, shop with credit cards, and make calls on our cell phones. Companies like Yahoo! and Google are harvesting an average of 2,500 details about each of us every month. Who is looking at this information and what are they doing with it?

Journalist Stephen Baker explores these questions and provides us with a fascinating guide to the world we're entering-and to the people controlling that world. The Numerati have infiltrated every realm of human affairs, profiling us as workers, shoppers, voters, potential terrorists - even lovers. The implications are vast. Privacy evaporates. Our bosses can monitor our every move. Retailers can better tempt us to make impulse buys. But the Numerati can also work on our behalf, diagnosing an illness before we're aware of the symptoms, or even helping us find our soul mate. Entertaining and enlightening, The Numerati shows how a powerful new endeavor-the mathematical modeling of humanity-will transform every aspect of our lives.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Numerati are watching you. In this absorbing, sometimes scary book, award-winning BusinessWeek reporter Stephen Baker describes the mathematical elite who spend their days profiling us as shoppers, workers, voters, patients, potential terrorists; even as voyeurs and lovers. We don't know they're there, but every time we scan a website, use a cell phone, or buy something with a credit card, you're providing them with the data they need to understand and ultimately manipulate your behavior. With the help of Numerati savants, companies can sell you goods you never knew you wanted, and politicians can package themselves as candidates to match individual preferences. But, brace yourself, the trend is just beginning. "The mathematical modeling of humanity," he notes, "will transform every aspect of our lives." A stimulating ride for information addicts.
From the Publisher
"A highly readable and fascinating account of the number-driven world we now live in." The Wall Street Journal

"[A] bracing behind-the-screen investigation into the booming world of data mining and analysis . . . fascinating." Booklist, ALA, Starred Review

"Highly recommended for general readers with an appreciation for contemporary cultural phenomenons." Library Journal

"An eye-opening read for even the techiest among us." Bookpage

"Deserve[s] a spot on your shelf." Steve Rubel, AdAge

"A well-considered take on a hard-to-grasp subject." Kirkus Reviews

"Stephen Baker could have easily gone for spooky in this depiction of the Numerati . . . but Baker's deep reportage goes beyond smart shopping carts that entice us to run up our grocery bills and political messages crafted on our preference for Chianti . . . The Numerati, Baker writes, try to model 'something almost hopelessly complex: human life and behavior.' They're making progress."

Time Magazine

"'The Numerati' is a book about math that won’t cause liberal-arts majors to heave it across the room. The slender volume contains not a single esoteric Greek letter or mystifying equation. What’s more, writer Stephen Baker artfully conjures up vivid images to explain what he’s talking about and why a reader should care." Christian Science Monitor

"Utterly fascinating . . . Baker, a veteran journalist at BusinessWeek, manages to explain this cutting edge phenomenon and its sometimes-frightening impacts in accessible prose . . . Baker also does not shy from potential problems with all this data mining and analysis . . . Baker's accessible prose and analysis illuminate this startling new world and its potential problems." Seattle Post-Intelligencer

"'The Numerati' is a kind of travelogue, a report from the shadowy regions where data mining, the search for new algorithms and the divination for the hidden meanings disclosed by our choices animates a type of research that was impossible to imagine before the computer . . . an interesting book . . . Baker knows well that the Numerati cannot answer the big questions, like where do we go from here? But perhaps they can help us avoid falling off whatever cliffs we decide to peer over." The Oregonian

"Crisp, well-reported ... Baker writes with smooth and accessible assurance." - San Francisco Chronicle

"An eye-opening and chilling book." - Portfolio

"Baker singles out the danger to privacy the Numerati and their techniques represent, but he doesn't take sides. He also points out the advantage of Amazon knowing what books you want, or an insurance company offering discounts to drivers who install electronic monitoring equipment in their cars . . . still, he paints a pretty scary picture." - Chicago Sun-Times

"Deserve[s] a spot on your shelf . . . Baker details how companies are hiring math geeks to dissect and make sense of mountains of data to spot everything from consumer patterns to future terrorists."—Steve Rubel, AdAge

"'The Numerati' is fascinating and a bit frightening—a well-written consideration of why you might want to drive a different way to work every now and then, or buy ginger ale rather than Coke, just to throw 'them' off a little."—Utah Daily Herald

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780618784608
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 8/12/2008
  • Pages: 244
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

STEPHEN BAKER was BusinessWeek 's senior technology writer for a decade, based first in Paris and later New York. He has also written for the Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, and the Wall Street Journal. Roger Lowenstein called his first book, The Numerati, "an eye-opening and chilling book." Baker blogs at finaljeopardy.net.

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Read an Excerpt

What will the Numerati learn about us as they run us into dizzying combinations of numbers? First they need to find us.
Say you're a potential SUV shopper in the northern suburbs of New York, or a churchgoing, antiabortion Democrat in Alburquerque. Maybe you're a Java programmer ready to relocate to Hyderabad, or a jazz-loving, Chianti-sipping Sagittarius looking for walks in the country and snuggles by the fireplace in Stockholm, or—heaven help us—maybe you're eager to strap bombs to your waist and climb onto a bus.
Whatever you are—and each of us is a lot of things—companies and governments want to identify and locate you. The Numerati also want to alter our behavior. If we're shopping, they want us to buy more. At the workplace, they're out to boost our productivity.
When we're patients, they want us healthier and cheaper. As companies like IBM and Amazon roll out early models of us, they can predict our behavior and experiment with us. They can simulate changes in a store or an office and see how we would likely react. And they can attempt to calculate mathematically how to boost our performance. How would shoppers like me respond to a $100 rebate on top-of-the-line Nikon cameras?
How much more productive would you be at the office if you had a $600 course on spreadsheets? How would our colleagues cope if the company eliminated our positions, or folded them into operations in Bangalore? We don't have to participate, or even know that our mathematical ghosts are laboring night and day as lab rats. We'll receive the results of these studies—the optimum course—as helpful suggestions, prescriptions, or marching orders.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1

1 Worker 17

2 Shopper 41

3 Voter 67

4 Blogger 96

5 Terrorist 123

6 Patient 154

7 Lover 182

Conclusion 201

Acknowledgments 219

Notes 221

Sources and Further Reading 231

Index 233

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 6 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 11, 2008

    Great crash course

    This book is a great crash course on numbers/data and their application. The book is very well written and organized into almost stand-alone chapters. Baker makes understanding our digital footprint very easy and it is incredible to find out how much data there is out there to harvest and harness. I think anyone with any digital interest should read this book. How come I am the first reviewer??

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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