The Numeratiby Stephen Baker
"Steve Baker puts his finger on perhaps the most important cultural trend today: the explosion of data about every aspect of our world and the rise of applied math gurus who know how to use it." --Chris Anderson, Editor-in-Chief of Wired Magazine (Wired Magazine )An urgent look at how a global math elite is predicting and altering our behavior -- at work, at the mall,… See more details below
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"Steve Baker puts his finger on perhaps the most important cultural trend today: the explosion of data about every aspect of our world and the rise of applied math gurus who know how to use it." --Chris Anderson, Editor-in-Chief of Wired Magazine (Wired Magazine )An urgent look at how a global math elite is predicting and altering our behavior -- at work, at the mall, and in bed.Every day we produce loads of data about ourselves simply by living in the modern world: we click web pages, flip channels, drive through automatic toll booths, shop with credit cards, and make cell phone calls. Now, in one of the greatest undertakings of the twenty-first century, a savvy group of mathematicians and computer scientists is beginning to sift through this data to dissect us and map out our next steps. Their goal? To manipulate our behavior -- what we buy, how we vote -- without our even realizing it.In this tour de force of original reporting and analysis, journalist Stephen Baker provides us with a fascinating guide to the world we're all entering -- and to the people controlling that world. The Numerati have infiltrated every realm of human affairs, profiling us as workers, shoppers, patients, voters, potential terrorists -- and lovers. The implications are vast. Our privacy evaporates. Our bosses can monitor and measure our every move (then reward or punish us). Politicians can find the swing voters among us, by plunking us all into new political groupings with names like "Hearth Keepers" and "Crossing Guards." It can sound scary. 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. Surprising, enlightening, and deeply relevant, The Numerati shows how a powerful new endeavor -- the mathematical modeling of humanity -- will transform every aspect of our lives.
"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."
"'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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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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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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