Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz

★☆☆☆☆ (1/5)

“The algorithms know you better than you know yourself.”

The book was too monotonous, purely data-driven, and replete with unrelated examples. It’s just a collection of big data that didn’t really challenge my existing notions nor added any new ideas to my knowledge. Except of course the assertion that many stereotypes are true, and others are false.

A selection of my favourite passages from the book

On revealing our true selves on the Internet

  • Google was invented so that people could learn about the world, not so researchers could learn about people. But it turns out the trails we leave as we seek knowledge on the internet are tremendously revealing.

  • In other words, people’s search for information is, in itself, information. When and where they search for facts, quotes, jokes, places, persons, things, or help, it turns out, can tell us a lot more about what they really think, really desire, really fear, and really do than anyone might have guessed
  • Facebook data scientists have shown one exciting possibility. They can estimate a country’s Gross National Happiness every day. If people’s status messages tend to be positive, the country is assumed happy for the day. If they tend to be negative, the country is assumed sad for the day.
  • Google search data and other wellsprings of truth on the internet give us an unprecedented look into the darkest corners of the human psyche. This is at times, I admit, difficult to face. But it can also be empowering. We can use the data to fight the darkness. Collecting rich data on the world’s problems is the first step toward fixing them.

Racism and Searches

  • The discrimination black people regularly experience in the United States appears to be fueled more widely by explicit, if hidden, hostility.
  • Trump rode a wave of white nationalism. There is no evidence here that he created a wave of white nationalism.
  • Zuckerberg had learned an important secret: people can claim they’re furious, they can decry something as distasteful, and yet they’ll still click.

Interesting Nuggets

  • John Adams, in his 1799 State of the Union address, referred to “the United States in their treaties with his Britanic Majesty.” If my book were written in 1800, I would have said, “The United States are divided.” This little usage difference has long been a fascination for historians, since it suggests there was a point when America stopped thinking of itself as a collection of states and started thinking of itself as one nation.
  • Reisinger founded a company, Premise, which employs a group of workers in developing countries, armed with smartphones. The employees’ job? To take pictures of interesting goings-on that might have economic import.
  • These are just correlations, but they do suggest that growing up near big ideas is better than growing up with a big backyard.
  • Yet the goal of a great society is not only to leave fewer people behind; it is to help as many people as possible to really stand out. Perhaps this effort to zoom in on the places where hundreds of thousands of the most famous Americans were born can give us some initial strategies: encouraging immigration, subsidizing universities, and supporting the arts, among them.
  • A combination of curiosity, creativity, and data could dramatically improve our understanding of the world.

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