Today's recommendation will be Everybody lies - Big Data, new Data and what the internet can tell us about who we really are by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, first published in 2017.

A book for everybody

Everybody lies can be read by everyone; this is the good message. The prominent buzzword Big Data can be found everywhere in recent years. And even though by now almost everyone has some vague idea of what it means or what it entails, I am claiming that only a small fraction of people know much about its technicalities or "how things work".

Davidowitz doesn't go much into technical or mathematical details, which means the book is very much accessible to everyone; he does however cite a lot of statistics and throws around numbers, so you should at least not be afraid of percentages. He presents his results and interesting revelations in a very simple and illustrive way and so the books content is not only easily understood but also entertaining and nice to read.

The bad message

Being witty, entertaining and accessible is the upside of the book; it however stays on the very general surface of things. It provides very interesting insights in human behaviour, biases and more, a lot of fun facts or interesting anecdotes, but does not go into detail about the scientific background. If you are interested in methodology or explainations of how Data Science works in detail, this book has little to offer. For people with connection to the field it is a short and entertaining read, but will most likely not leave a lasting impression. I would even hesitate to call it “popular science”. However, the book does not claim to be educational or scientific, so I am totally fine with the experience; you still get what the book promises and if the lack of depth makes it readable for people without the fitting background, that seems like a good trade-off.

"I'm in the prediction business, not the explanation business"

This nice quote is being cited in the book; and it fantastically captures a point Davidowitz makes and warns people that see Data Science as the holy grail. Data Science is a tool and in an economical context it might do literal wonders for us; it does however not explain, prove or reveal causalities, especially in human behaviour, and that is why we have and need psychologists, biologists or doctors. In the book Davidowitz lays out not only limitations of Big Data but also risks, dangers or consequences of errors that we have to consider when dealing with data; he paints a picture of a society that relies on Big Data and the pitfalls we should avoid on our journey into a more than ever digital world.

Overall the book is a short, entertaining, not too deep, but easy-to-follow read. I recommend it to everyone who is interested in learning more about human behaviour and how Big Data can be used in psychology.

Further resources