Dataclysm: Who We Are When We Think No One’s Looking
2014 – Nonfiction
Source: ARC from publisher
The Premise: After graduating from Harvard with a degree in math, Christian Rudder co-founded OkCupid with some friends. Now Rudder is using all the data that OkCupid has collected over the years to paint a picture of humanity through statistics. Using data collected from match preference questions, messages sent and received, profile votes, and more, as well as data from other major sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google, Rudder uses raw numbers to record the human experience – what we think, how we believe, and why we act the way we do.
The Opening Line: You have by now heard a lot about Big Data: the vast potential, the ominous consequences, the paradigm-destroying new paradigm it portends for mankind and his ever-loving websites.
What I Loved: This book was chock-full of trivia. Anyone who knows me knows my love for trivia. It was really fascinating stuff, too. Like how your sexual orientation can be predicted by your Facebook likes. Like how your social media network of friends can predict how strong your marriage is and if it will succeed. The fact that everything Rudder claimed is backed up by a ton of data – more than any research study or survey – is just icing on the cake.
What I Didn’t Love: There was a ton of math. Statistics and charts and graphs on every page. I knew this going in, of course, but it still threw me. Even with a degree in psychology and with a published research article to my own name, some of it was hard to follow. Of course, I’m much more humanities and literature minded, so others may have less trouble. Also, some of the chapters felt a bit disconnected, like Rudder was just throwing random facts around without connecting it to previous or future claims.
Final Thoughts: This book was a fascinating look at humanity, as seen through the eyes of Big Data. While parts were hard to understand, overall I really enjoyed seeing, in numbers, how what we really think doesn’t often match how we act when the world’s eyes are on us. This book fulfilled my love for psychology and my affinity for sociology. This is my type of nonfiction. Recommended for those who love psychology, sociology, math, statistics, technology, and social media. Who knows? You might just learn something about yourself along the way!