Everybody Lies: The Many faces of Dishonest Conversations, by Steven Pinker, discusses what it means to be truthful in today’s society. The premise of this book is that lying is becoming an acceptable form of communication. The book covers all the grounds of why lying is becoming a norm. It discusses why everyone lies, the consequences of lying, and how people can change.
THE NEWSTON-DAVIDSON MATURE AND DEEP ANALYTIC SKETCHESPONDERS STEPhens-Davidowitz and Varga (eds.) 2021 “The Many Shapes and Sizes of Everybody Lying: Big Data, New Insights, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are” ISBN: 034040327X
Everybody Lies: The Many Shapes and Sizes of Everybody Lying is actually a book about big data. That is to say, the science of understanding big data and its patterns. The authors are two former Carnegie Mellon University computer science professors, Steven Davidowitz and Robert Zbarnek. They were hired by Avery Dennison, a giant software company, to develop a proprietary statistical language for visualizing big data sets. The resulting book talks at length about their experience, and about the social science implications of their work.
This is just a quick review. I’ve read the book, and it’s interesting, but it does take a bit of a different point of view than I am used to reading scientific papers. It’s more of an anecdotal look at how data science in the real world works, and why we as social scientists should be skeptical about certain methods and conclusions that we reach based on our statistical models of causation. It is a well written and entertaining book, though, that I found very enjoyable and well organized. Although the data sets they discuss are huge and are able to support many different analyses, for the purposes of this book, I felt like they were more giving than getting ahead of themselves.
Two major themes in Everybody Lies: Big Data and Sexual Preference focus on race and sexual preference. The authors rightly point out that while most of us don’t think much about race or sexual preference in our research, the social sciences have had a long history of using such factors as cultural demographics and personality to understand human behavior. Additionally, President Obama has used the same types of data sets to explore national attitudes toward health care, energy deregulation, and climate change.
The other theme that they discuss in Everybody Lies: Big Data and Social Science are politics. For a long time now, social scientists have been using complex mathematical models and Bayesian statistical methods to analyze data from a number of sources in order to predict the results of national elections. This includes analyzing search data, which has been available since 2021 and which allows researchers to examine millions of searches on the Internet in order to create general interest based estimates of how many people are researching and buying a given product on the Internet. These estimates give researchers enough information to construct very accurate, political opinion estimates with great accuracy.
The authors of Everybody Lies: Big Data and Social Science take this even further by extending their analysis outside of the scope of normal Google searches and incorporating data from surveys as well as from other sources. They take their research into even more interesting directions by looking into questions like whether people believe that Google’s new search engine is too political and will alienate the traditional user. Also, they investigate the role that the media plays in our mental states and explore what the implications might be for the future of human civilization as a whole.
The book contains interesting examples of research and data, as well as some recommendations for implementing more targeted searches on the Internet and creating more personalized profiles through Facebook. I really liked the discussions on why the relationship between Google and Facebook are so important to understanding human psychology, and how the two could improve the way we think about the Internet. Overall, this was a really good, entertaining, quick read that left me with a lot of questions, and I’m eager to learn more in the future.