Big Data as a Lens on Human Culture
ISBN 9781594487453 | 288 pages | 26 Dec 2013 | Riverhead | 8.26 x 5.51in | 18 - AND UP
- eBook - ePub eBook: $14.99
Summary of Uncharted Summary of Uncharted Reviews for Uncharted An Excerpt from Uncharted
“One of the most exciting developments from the world of ideas in decades, presented with panache by two frighteningly brilliant, endearingly unpretentious, and endlessly creative young scientists.” – Steven Pinker, author of The Better Angels of Our Nature
Our society has gone from writing snippets of information by hand to generating a vast flood of 1s and 0s that record almost every aspect of our lives: who we know, what we do, where we go, what we buy, and who we love. This year, the world will generate 5 zettabytes of data. (That’s a five with twenty-one zeros after it.) Big data is revolutionizing the sciences, transforming the humanities, and renegotiating the boundary between industry and the ivory tower.
What is emerging is a new way of understanding our world, our past, and possibly, our future. In Uncharted, Erez Aiden and Jean-Baptiste Michel tell the story of how they tapped into this sea of information to create a new kind of telescope: a tool that, instead of uncovering the motions of distant stars, charts trends in human history across the centuries. By teaming up with Google, they were able to analyze the text of millions of books. The result was a new field of research and a scientific tool, the Google Ngram Viewer, so groundbreaking that its public release made the front page of The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Boston Globe, and so addictive that Mother Jones called it “the greatest timewaster in the history of the internet.”
Using this scope, Aiden and Michel—and millions of users worldwide—are beginning to see answers to a dizzying array of once intractable questions. How quickly does technology spread? Do we talk less about God today? When did people start “having sex” instead of “making love”? At what age do the most famous people become famous? How fast does grammar change? Which writers had their works most effectively censored by the Nazis? When did the spelling “donut” start replacing the venerable “doughnut”? Can we predict the future of human history? Who is better known—Bill Clinton or the rutabaga?
All over the world, new scopes are popping up, using big data to quantify the human experience at the grandest scales possible. Yet dangers lurk in this ocean of 1s and 0s—threats to privacy and the specter of ubiquitous government surveillance. Aiden and Michel take readers on a voyage through these uncharted waters.
Praise for Uncharted
“Aiden and Michel are big data pioneers, transforming how humanity thinks about itself. Uncharted is a magical, fun, fast and informative read. Every page brims with insight and humor.”
—Kenneth Cukier, co-author of Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think
“One of the most exciting developments from the world of ideas in decades, presented with panache by two frighteningly brilliant, endearingly unpretentious, and endlessly creative young scientists.”
—Steven Pinker, author of The Better Angels of Our Nature
“[A]musing, enlightening… Erez Aiden and Jean-Baptiste Michel show that our books are crammed with revelations about history, culture, economics, and politics that would even surprise their authors…. The resulting insights may shift our thinking about matters great and small." — Boston Globe
"Entertaining… This may be potato chips for intellectuals, but it is irresistible. You cannot eat just one ngram." — New York Times
“Erez and Michel are keen, lighthearted guides through their complex world… fascinating.” — San Francisco Chronicle
“Literary lovechild of: Raymond Williams’ Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society and Nate Silver’s The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail—but Some Don’t…. Aiden and Michel have made fascinating discoveries about everything from the speed of fame to Soviet censorship. That they’re only just skimming the surface is hugely exciting.” — Slate
“[Aiden and Michel] offer fascinating insights… A fun, revealing exploration of a new way to view the past.”
“[Aiden and Michel] reveal a wealth of historical nuggets… [E]ven math-phobic readers may glean some fascinating sociological tidbits.” – Booklist
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