Everybody Lies

(Seth Stephens-Davidowitz)

Non-fiction, 338 pages

In his book EVERYBODY LIES Seth Stephens-Davidowitz provides an interesting mix of data science and social science, uncovering the secrets about human’s behaviour online. He claims Google to be a “truth serum”: When we sit alone in front of our computer, more specifically in front of the Google search field, we feel unobserved and therefore reveal who we really are, our real problems, thoughts and desires.

We tell Google what’s on our mind, and Davidowitz tells it to the world.

What’s the book about?

Uncovering the secrets and the huge potential of Big Data is certainly an interesting profession. Davidowitz gives first-hand insights on former and current studies he carries out on his own or with renowned researchers.

I was always fascinated by the abilities of data scientists, who can handle trillions of data points, recode them and make a meaningful data set out of it. One thing I kept in mind was the sentence, where Davidowitz introduced his approach to answer one of his research questions, which started with the words “And so I downloaded Wikipedia…” – yes great, let’s do that.

With Big Data and New Data, science gained access to revolutionary possibilities: Researchers can browse demographic data, Google searches, Google trends, tax data, online books, transcripts, and many more to gain meaningful insights about gender differences, tax fraud, racism, prejudice, sexuality, politics etc. without having the problem of people lying to surveys or interviews.

Why read?

This book helps us better understand ourselves. Why this title? EVERYBODY LIES refers to the fact, that in public space (i.e. in our daily life or on social media) we often strive to consciously display a different picture of ourselves than who we really are. A picture that is in our perception more favourable, presentable, and charming than our real life. There are many truths that are revealed by our Google searches, that are not necessarily congruent with the self-image we would like to achieve in public. Davidowitz also clears up with general perceptions we might have about people’s worries. For example, it is 10% more likely that a woman googles “Is my husband gay?” than “Is my husband cheating?”.

There are many fascinating things to learn from Big Data, and my impression was that this book gives a useful overview and interesting insights on what can be possible in future. The studies outlined in this book do not only reveal truths that are funny, but also some that are scary. I think it is important to keep an eye on Big Data developments, as they will be a building block of what our future daily lives will look like.

A very interesting book, that I can recommend!
Enjoy reading about yourself 😉