Free Press Journal

Everybody Lies: The New York Times Bestseller by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz: Review

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Author: Seth Stephens-Davidowitz

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Price: Rs 435


Pages: 352

In his book Everybody Lies, Seth Stephens-Davidowitz offers fascinating, surprising, and sometimes laugh-out-loud insights into everything from economics to ethics to sports to race to sex, gender and more, all drawn from the world of big data. Google is his source for human psyche. The author tells BOSKI GUPTA that people share with the search engine more than they share with their actual partner or friends.

The inspiration

I have been doing research for five years on what Google searches could teach us about human nature. I wanted to turn these ideas into a book. And so the idea of Everybody Lies came to me. It took about two years of writing and five years of research.

Experience

I have had a lot of random experiences. I studied philosophy at Stanford. I then got my PhD in economics at Harvard. I have also worked as a data scientist at Google and taught classes at many places including the Wharton School. Actually working at Google made me realise what a hypochondriac I am.  I am always Googling about health symptoms, usually followed by concerns I might have cancer.

The art of Google

Google has become a synonymous to internet search. I think it just says that Google is a much better search engine than the others. People sometimes ask if we’re too dependent on search engines and internet when it comes to solving our problems. I don’t think so.  No human being is as smart as Google, so it makes sense we turn to Google so frequently. People tell Google things that they might not tell anybody else. These searches reveal that we are more anxious than we let on, more insecure than we let on, and meaner than we let on.

Data never cheats

I have also written about porn data in the book. And well, people lie about sex because it is a sensitive area.  So porn can give us a more honest picture of people’s sexuality. I found that about 5 per cent of men are gay. This seems to be true in just about every part of the world. About 20 per cent of porn watched by women is lesbian porn. Moreover, data of people depend on their background, countries and cultures. But sometimes data reveals hidden similarities. One place this is true is, frequently, health. For example, in every part of the world, pregnant women complain of the same symptoms. All countries lie; they may just differ on what they lie about. The most common search that starts “my husband wants” in India is “my husband wants me to breastfeed him.”

I was shocked by how frequently women search for porn featuring violence against women. Once again, this seems to be a universal phenomenon – it is true in parts of the world in which women are treated well and parts of the world in which women are treated less well. But I am not done with this topic. I think there’s so much more to find in this area.