Everybody Lies

Everybody Lies

Big Data, New Data and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are

Book - 2017
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An Economist Best Book of the Year

A PBS NewsHour Book of the Year

An Entrepeneur Top Business Book

An Amazon Best Book of the Year in Business and Leadership

New York Times Bestseller

Foreword by Steven Pinker, author of The Better Angels of our Nature

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.

Publisher: New York, NY :, Dey St.,, [2017]
Edition: First edition
Copyright Date: ♭2017
ISBN: 9780062390851
Characteristics: xi, 338 pages :,illustrations (some colour), maps


From the critics

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Mar 10, 2018

Interesting and surprising insights into the meaning of what we English-speakers search for when we search on the Internets.
For example, "One theory I am working on: Big Data just confirms everything the late Leonard Cohen ever said." (82n)
Also, why did the author not bother sweating the book's conclusion, and go for beers with friends instead? You'll need to read the book to find out (but remember, the author's premise is that unless it's big anonymous data, everybody lies).
A quick, coherent read, told thoughtfully and with humour.

Mar 07, 2018

How disappointing this book turned out to be and I had to stop reading after page six when the author posited post election racism search results from Google. There is great promise in big data and it has certainly provided us with heretofore unknown insights. However, one has to be careful and inquisitive about results and findings. Correlation does not always prove causation. While the author is a data scientist, making blanket statements and not being curious or delving deeper into the results is a disservice to the field and readers.

Mar 03, 2018

Reminded me in some ways of Malcolm Gladwell books. Some of the stories are very unique, like the one about the guy who figured out how to tell if a horse would be a winning race horse or not. Some readers may find other topics less interesting. Towards the end he mentions a website that could be the start of some really useful medical research at PatientsLikeMe.com. Individuals can register there, contact others with similar health problems, keep records, and even participate in research projects.

Nov 13, 2017

"Google searches are the most important data set ever collected on the human psyche." The author, an economist and former Google data scientist, begins from this premise and examines the way that data analysis can reveal more about humanity than our answers to surveys (and certainly more than our self-conscious and image-conscious Facebook posts). As one telling example, Stephens-Davidowitz shows that Americans use the n-word in Google searches at an alarming rate (despite both polls and conventional wisdom about race relations), and that this behavior is spread equally across both political parties and across Eastern states. Parents ask Google twice as often if a daughter is overweight than a son (despite more overweight boys in the population); Google searches potentially also reveal data about sexual behaviors and hang-ups, about suicide rates, and about cannabis use.
Methodologically speaking, the author seems to place too much trust on pornography site searches as evidence of sexual tastes across humanity, but his overall introduction to "big data" analysis for social questions is strong and easy for the layperson to follow.

Oct 19, 2017

"Everybody Lies" by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz is not just a provocative title. Granted that is what lured me to pick it up but the introduction and very first chapter, "Your faulty Gut," hooked me. Seth is a data scientist to the core and he talks passionately about his craft or should i say Art? The premise of the book is that all humans lie or twist the truth in such a way as to make themselves look better - unless they are surfing the internet. It is these clicks that data scientists study to find truths. Perhaps the area were we lie the most is about our sexuality and our sexual proclivities. Thus the author spends a good bit of his chapter "Digital Truth Serum" examining this area and comes out with surprising realities. As the author states in his acknowledgement a professor asked him what his mother thought of the work he did; because of his work on taboo subjects. However, his mother taught him that he should follow his curiosity no matter where it led.
Stephens-Davidowitz compared the number of people who read the beginning of a book to those who read the end. Well, Seth I read not only your conclusion but your acknowledgement too. And yes, if the sequel comes out, "Everybody 'still' lies," you have one confirmed reader.

Sep 09, 2017

This book explains in a very interesting way how BIG DATA from internet could be analyzed and thus utilized in various domains in our lives (health, politics, education, sexuality, history... you name it!).

First an important distinction in the truth value between data collected from social media sites (e.g. Facebook) and data from search engines (e.g. Google search). So if according to the author "Facebook is digital brag-to-my-friends-about-how-good-my-life-is", it can not be a reliable source of who we really are. On the other hand analyzing what people search in Google is more truthful. An illustrative funny example: the top word wives associate with 'husbands' in FB is 'the best' 'my best friend' while in google search it is 'gay' 'a jerk'!

So, what makes BIG DATA from Internet so useful and unique to understand human social interactions (versus classical research such as surveys)?

First, it is more true (e.g. does racism really does not matter in political choices in America?).

Second, because of its great volume it can allow us to delve into very specific subsets of geography or segment. For example by analyzing the searching of some key symptoms we can know that en epidemic is occurring somewhere, or we can know the sexual preference of middle age women living in rural areas.

Third, it allows for experimentation in a very fast and cheap way (the A/B experiments obviously done on us everyday by Google and FB).

Fourth, it allows us to look at new data we would have never thought to seek with regular research (for example or when the US became a truly united country as to when it was referee to as the United State is not are!).

The book is loaded with interesting examples to illustrate the points and it is fun to read. It is also touching on the ethical implications of this revolution in data science.

It concludes with a BIG DATA analysis of the percentage of people who would finish a book (only 3% for a serious book like Capital in the 21st Century or 7% for Thinking, Fast and Slow, while more than 90% for a novel like Goldfinch!).

This is a very important book to understand the World we are living in now, and how are data scientists utilizing the information we post and type everyday in the Internet!

Aug 23, 2017

a digital revolution as internet activity provides reliable data to analyse; what could possibly go wrong here

Jul 13, 2017

I picked up this book to get the interesting facts that Stephens-Davidowitz learned from his analyses of this revealing dataset. That said, there is also plenty of basic introduction to data collection and research methodology, which might be a bit tedious for anyone who is already familiar with this material. However, I appreciated the attention to basics when it came to statistical analysis, an area where I don’t have the same background knowledge or experience. The author also spends a good bit of time trying to convince skeptics on one side that big data is useful, and on the other side, warning evangelists of the limitations. A big dataset can actually be an encumbrance if you don’t know what questions to ask of it. However, I sometimes took issue with the way the author tried to present information in an accessible way. Comparing a large dataset to your Grandma’s lifetime of collected wisdom is more harmful than helpful because only one of those things is based on verifiable numbers rather than impressions.

Full review: https://shayshortt.com/2017/07/13/everybody-lies/

Jul 07, 2017

Interesting, though it tends toward the sensational. I'm also skeptical about generalizing about sexuality based on internet porn site data.

Jul 02, 2017

The information about human thoughts and behaviour revealed in this book is fascinating. Equally fascinating is the methodology used to gather the information, primarily millions of anonymized Google searches analyzed by geography, by frequency, by time, by choices. These are deemed to reveal "true thoughts” through real action vs what people tell you in person or in surveys. Common held views about human behaviour and even our intuition about what motivates people are proving wrong. One example: the change in on-line searches during and following two different President Obama speeches appealing for tolerance after a terrorist attack in the U.S. As with any new technology the ramifications can be both positive and negative. Finding “doppelgängers” - people who are statistically similar to you - could provide life-saving medical information or the means to manipulate you. The opportunities for social sciences - economics, sociology, and psychology - are significant; no longer will a small sample of paid students provide supposedly meaningful information about human behaviour through controlled experiments. Analysis of data for causal connections (e.g. socio-economic backgrounds of NBA players) also has power. But does Big Data like Google searches really reveal true human behaviour? Maybe sometimes. I think more work needs to be done on this point.

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SPPL_János Mar 25, 2018

"At the risk of sounding grandiose, I have come to believe that the new data increasingly available in our digital age will radically expand our understanding of humankind. The microscope showed us there is more to a drop of pond water than we think we see. The telescope showed us there is more to the night sky than we think we see. And new, digital data now shows us there is more to human society than we think we see. It may be our era's microscope or telescope—making possible important, even revolutionary insights."

Jul 13, 2017

There was a darkness and hatred that was hidden from the traditional sources but was quite apparent in the searches people made.


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Jul 13, 2017

Big data has been much hyped as the next big thing in science, but Everybody Lies sets out to show what can be done with big data that wasn’t possible before, while also acknowledging its shortcomings, and the ways it can be complemented by traditional small data collection techniques. Seth Stephens-Davidowitz makes the argument that the Google dataset he has been working with is particularly valuable, because unlike even anonymous surveys, users have an incentive to be honest, and little or no sense of wanting to impress anyone. To get the information they want from Google, they must query honestly about even the most taboo subjects, from sex to race to medical problems. Facebook, for example, is not nearly as useful, because people are consciously presenting a certain version of themselves to their friends. But if you want Google to bring you back the “best racist jokes,” you have to tell it so. You can’t hide, and still get what you want. The result is a partial but unprecedented glimpse into the human mind.

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