Insightful, surprising and with groundbreaking revelations about our society, Everybody Lies exposes the secrets embedded in our Internet searches, with a foreword by best-selling author Steven Pinker.
Everybody lies, to friends, lovers, doctors, pollsters - and to themselves. In Internet searches, however, people confess their secrets - about sexless marriages, mental health problems, even racist views. Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, an economist and former Google data scientist, shows that this could just be the most important dataset ever collected.
This huge database of secrets - unprecedented in human history - offers astonishing, even revolutionary insights into humankind. Anxiety, for instance, does not increase after a terrorist attack. Crime levels drop when a violent film is released. And racist searches are no higher in Republican areas than in Democrat ones.
Stephens-Davidowitz reveals 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. Insightful, funny and always surprising, Everybody Lies exposes the biases and secrets embedded deeply within us, at a time when things are harder to predict than ever.
My review pertains to the first 25 minutes only, as this is as long as I lasted before I unplugged my ipod and opted for the car radio.
It started off OK for the first 5 minutes. Then the author goes down the rabbit hole of spurious conclusions, and seems determined to keep digging for a solid 20 minutes at least (I gave up at that point). He spends more than a full chapter, asserting that Trump was elected by racism. Everyone is entitled to their opinions, but this seemed to an all out agenda. I could have skipped and moved on to other chapters, but finding deep inconsistencies in the first chapter, I decided against it.
To offer some explanation of what I mean: the author, rather dismissively, decides that a certain racist word is spelt one way in rap lyrics, and one way when used in a racist manner. No overlap. All racists are apparently excellent spellers at all times and conform to an agreed set of spelling rules. Spelt in the other ways, the corrollary seems to be that it is just rap culture? He never clarifies. He offers no evidence for this.
He then states with conviction, that his research shows that this (only this spelling mind you) word usage correlates perfectly with the 2016 election result, and that NO OTHER VARIABLE does. None at all, of all the millions of data variables one could examine. Suspect anyone who makes this statement. It reminds me of 2 studies - the one that found a correlation between ice cream sales and drowning deaths, and the one that found a significant link between a certain gene and proficiency with chopsticks. In the former, there is clear is an indirect link (more people swim in summer, it is hotter), so clearly a variable usually affects other indirect variables and rarely purely correlates by itself alone, whether it is the causal variable or not. In the latter study, via random sampling, the researcher's computer happened to select a lot of the local borough's chinese immigrant enclaves, because even in the lottery, someone through random chance happens to pick a correlating set of numbers. As nicholas Nassim taleb elaborates in his extensive works, it is actually rather odd that anyone who samples enough over a long enough time period does not find patterns that are thrown up by chance alone.
Whether the entirety of this audiobook is rivven with the same fallacies is a mystery I am happy never to solve.