Everybody Lies

Everybody Lies

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

Book - 2017 | First edition.
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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 : HarperCollins Publishers, [2017]
Edition: First edition.
Copyright Date: ©2017
ISBN: 9780062390851
Branch Call Number: 302.231 Ste
Characteristics: xi, 338 pages : illustrations (some colour) ; 22 cm


From the critics

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Jun 02, 2019

This book was OK, but not great. The basic premise is that people do not answer surveys honestly; they answer in a way that makes themselves look good. Also, traditional surveys have relatively small samples.

On the other hand, if you can analyze millions of Google searches, you can get loads more data, and people are apparently more honest in their Google searches than they are in surveys.

I have to say that my reaction to that was “Don’t Google anything you would not want on the front page of the Seattle Times (or your newspaper of choice)!” This author was looking at aggregate anonymous data, but clearly Google knows what you have Googled as an individual. Talk about scary!

There were some interesting tidbits. For example, the author notes (in hindsight, of course) that the big data of Google searches showed that the current president was likely to win in 2016, even if people were unwilling to admit they would vote for him when surveyed. Also, people claim they plan to vote, but they don’t Google things like “how to vote” and “where to vote”, which demonstrates they were just trying to look good to the person taking the survey.

Some areas of the country appear to have relatively few gay people, but Google searches from those parts of the country indicate otherwise.

People say on Facebook that they like the Atlantic more than the National Enquirer. Their Google searches and clicks indicate otherwise. Whatever your Facebook friends are saying on Facebook is probably untrue, as people are trying to make themselves look more impressive to others. (If you did not already know that, you are gullible.)

I was underwhelmed by this book. It might make an interesting magazine article, but it does not have enough substance for a book.

May 02, 2019

Just some guy's opinion wrapped up in a pseudoscientific evaluation of Google searches. You can't just observe something and then draw a bunch of conclusions about it. It might be mildly interesting for a conversation starter, but it is too low in actual usable information to be of help to anyone. I do agree with him in that everybody lies. I just don't agree that he has chosen the most interesting reason for why they do it.

(And he seems to have more than a fair share of Trump Derangement Syndrome)

Apr 21, 2019

The Google search box is the new confessional box for a digital age. A place where deepest fears and forbidden wishes find new, unfiltered expression. In this new confessional, we don’t seek salvation— we seek information. And the questions we ask it often reveal things about us that were previously hidden, or misunderstood.
Subtitled, “Big data, new data, and what the internet can tell us about who we really are,” this book was written by a former Google data scientist who uses “confessional” search data on a vast scale to draw new insight into the human condition. It’s a fascinating and compelling work which kept me reading from cover to cover in one day.
I could quibble with the author’s overconfidence in the power of internet search data to accurately depict people’s true selves, because I believe that our relationship with the digital world is fundamentally a charade, and will one day come to be seen as such. But for now, the newness and sheer volume of this new form of data is electrifying and groundbreaking, and has great potential to shed new light on the previously dark corners of the human psyche. I eagerly look forward to the author’s planned sequel in which he intends to dive deeper into the “small data” that lives between the topline trends.

SkokieStaff_Steven Mar 20, 2019

The ancient Romans had a saying about a mountain giving birth to a mouse. I thought of this as I listened to the audiobook of Seth Stephens-Davidowitz’s “Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us about Who We Really Are.” Stephens-Davidowitz makes great claims for the valuable insights that can be gleamed from the enormous data contained in digital sources such as Google searches and social media postings. Alas, his own insights thus gleamed lean toward the underwhelming. To give just one example, he goes to great lengths to finally answer the vexing question of whether professional basketball players tend to come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. (Spoiler: they don’t.) His conclusions are meaningful, no doubt, but not comparable, say, to the germ theory of disease. Still, his book is always interesting in a “Freakonomics” sort of way, and well worth the reader’s time.

Feb 20, 2019

If it wasn't for the fact that this book is the February read for my job's book club, I probably would've never read it; but I am so glad that I did! I couldn't even pull something from it to quote in this review because I felt like there were whole paragraphs that I wanted to share.

Everybody Lies is both informative and fascinating. I feel like Seth Stephens-Davidowitz did a great job explaining the significance and revolutionary impact of data on our world. His thesis didn't surprise me; however, many of the findings that he shared in his book did. And based on everything Seth discussed in Everybody Lies, it's crystal clear that data science is real and it's impact on our lives is big.

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.

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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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