Book Review – Everybody Lies

By | February 18, 2018

Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz is a deeply analytical, and yet hilarious, look at what Internet users tell us through their behaviors, as opposed to what they might directly tell us if we asked them. Stephens-Davidowitz digs deep into Google search data and other large data sources to pull out surprising nuggets and trends from that data. Of course, there are always outliers (I swear, I was just doing research!), but the beauty of big data, in this case, is that outliers get drowned out by the signal.

Not all behaviors are so revealing. I have to admit I’ve added many books I aspire to read to my Goodreads “Want To Read” bookshelf, or perhaps even want others to think I’ll read, but am actually quite unlikely to ever read. Case in point, Deep Learning by Ian Goodfellow, Yoshua Bengio, and Aaron Courville. Netflix queues/lists are notorious for being filled with documentaries that go forever unwatched. The behaviors to pay attention to are books read and movies watched. The types of books that are more likely to be started but never finished is another interesting area for research.

A few sections of the book are not only NSFW, but were a little uncomfortable for me to read on a plane with strangers at my shoulders. Internet searches tell us a lot about the true nature of people’s interest in racism and pornography. One of his more notable discoveries was the correlation between areas with high numbers of racist searches and areas in which Obama performed significantly worse than John Kerry. Having grown up in the South, I know how prevalent virulent racism remains there. So, it’s unsurprising to me that Internet searches tell us how deeply racist the South remains. But, Internet searches with geo-located IP addresses tell us that racists also span the country in large numbers, even in very liberal areas.

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