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Foreword by Steven Pinker
Blending the informed analysis of The Signal and the Noise with the instructive iconoclasm of Think Like a Freak, a fascinating, illuminating, and witty look at what the vast amounts of information now instantly available to us reveals about ourselves and our world—provided we ask the right questions.
By the end of an average day in the early twenty-first century, human beings searching the internet will amass eight trillion gigabytes of data. This staggering amount of information—unprecedented in history—can tell us a great deal about who we are—the fears, desires, and behaviors that drive us, and the conscious and unconscious decisions we make. From the profound to the mundane, we can gain astonishing knowledge about the human psyche that less than twenty years ago, seemed unfathomable.
Everybody Lies offers fascinating, surprising, and sometimes laugh-out-loud insights into everything from economics to ethics to sports to race to sex, gender and more, all drawn from the world of big data. What percentage of white voters didn’t vote for Barack Obama because he’s black? Does where you go to school effect how successful you are in life? Do parents secretly favor boy children over girls? Do violent films affect the crime rate? Can you beat the stock market? How regularly do we lie about our sex lives and who’s more self-conscious about sex, men or women?
Investigating these questions and a host of others, Seth Stephens-Davidowitz offers revelations that can help us understand ourselves and our lives better. Drawing on studies and experiments on how we really live and think, he demonstrates in fascinating and often funny ways the extent to which all the world is indeed a lab. With conclusions ranging from strange-but-true to thought-provoking to disturbing, he explores the power of this digital truth serum and its deeper potential—revealing biases deeply embedded within us, information we can use to change our culture, and the questions we’re afraid to ask that might be essential to our health—both emotional and physical. All of us are touched by big data everyday, and its influence is multiplying. Everybody Lies challenges us to think differently about how we see it and the world.
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About the Author
Seth Stephens-Davidowitz is a contributing op-ed writer for the New York Times, a lecturer at The Wharton School, and a former Google data scientist. He received a BA from Stanford and a PhD from Harvard. His research has appeared in the Journal of Public Economics and other prestigious publications. He lives in New York City.
Table of Contents
Foreword Steven Pinker xi
Introduction: The Outlines of a Revolution 1
Part I Data, Big and Small
1 Your Faulty Gut 25
Part II The Powers of Big Data
2 Was Freud Right? 45
3 Data Reimagined 55
Bodies as Data 62
Words as Data 74
Pictures as Data 97
4 Digital Truth Serum 105
The Truth About Sex 112
The Truth About Hate and Prejudice 128
The Truth About the Internet 140
The Truth About Child Abuse and Abortion 145
The Truth About Your Facebook Friends 150
The Truth About Your Customers 153
Can We Handle the Truth? 158
5 Zooming In 165
What's Really Going On in Our Counties, Cities, and Towns? 172
How We Fill Our Minutes and Hours 190
Our Doppelgangers 197
Data Stories 205
6 All the World's a Lab 207
The ABCs of A/B Testing 209
Nature's Cruel-but Enlightening-Experiments 221
Part III Big Data: Handle with Care
7 Big Data, Big Schmata? What It Cannot Do 243
The Curse of Dimensionality 246
The Overemphasis on What Is Measurable 252
8 Mo Data, Mo Problems? What We Shouldn't Do 257
The Danger of Empowered Corporations 257
The Danger of Empowered Governments 266
Conclusion: How Many People Finish Books? 271