Author: Seth Stephens-Davidowitz
What happens when a book tries too hard to be the next Freakonomics mixed with Gladwell-esque posturings?
You get someone who has found some interesting trends in big data and repeats itself over and over again.
Big data is exciting because it’s the ultimate survey… except people actually tell the truth and they don’t know they’re taking it. It’s the answer social science is looking for when it comes to a sample of people.
Instead of sample sizes ranging from hundreds or thousands, we get hundreds of millions to billions (assuming people across the globe are online and using the same sites we use in North America).
Seth, a former data engineer at Google, analyzed trends from three major sources for his data: Google searches, Facebook and a major pornography website.
His results were interesting, covering topics such as baseball, racism, abortion and abuse… but falls back on covering the same topics repeatedly. I’m not sure whether this was to meet a word requirement from his publisher, or he really wanted to let us know that he was one of the few people to breach the subject.
Where the book shines is in part three where he talks about the potential of big data analysis, its limitations and its danger for us.
I do hope he continues his work because it opens up some incredible possibilities.
However, if you’re going to pick up this book, stick with it until part three. It might drag for you, but it’s worth a look.