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Digital Subscriptions > Skeptical Inquirer > Skeptical Inquirer March/April 2018 > NEW AND NOTABLE

NEW AND NOTABLE

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EVERYBODY LIES: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us about Who We Really Are. Seth Stephens-Davidowitz. Foreword by Steven Pinker. Yes, everybody lies, and now we have ways of quantifying it. The author, a former Google data scientist, uses Google search tools, mainly Google Trends and Google AdWords, plus his own algorithm developed as his PhD dissertation, to study how frequently words or phrases are searched for in different locations and times. The results tell us things public opinion polls and other conventional tools can’t, some of them disturbing—like actually how and when many people search for racist terms (much more frequently than you’d think) and where they live, not just in the South but across parts of the East and upper Midwest east of the Mississippi. People reveal more about their sexual concerns in their online searches than in any polling. The revelations keep coming, he says, about mental illness, child abuse, abortion, religion, and health. We have an entirely new, enormous dataset that offers “surprising new perspectives” on all these fields. “Let me blunt,” says the author: “I am now convinced that Google searches are the most important dataset ever collected on the human psyche.” This book is the result of his mining that treasured dataset and many others: Facebook, Wikipedia, and others. The data are all anonymous but, when analyzed, extraordinarily revealing. Harper Collins, 2017, 338 pp., $27.99.

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The War on Science, Anti-Intellectualism, and ‘Alternative Ways of Knowing’ in 21st-Century America