The Numerati: They've Got Your Number

by Bufkinite@evpl on Wednesday, January 21 2009, 9:57pm. Viewed 776 times.

Jacket cover art of The NumeratiThe Numerati is a very interesting - and arresting - book about how every act of ours is being tracked by marketeers.  We leave an electronic trail increasingly easy to follow, whether we're purchasing gas with a credit card, buying stuff on eBay using PayPal, trying to find Mr. Right creating profiles on eHarmony, using debit cards, creating wish lists on Amazon.com, or just clicking on random ads online.  And the numerati are there, gathering it all up.

Stephen Baker is a financial journalist fascinated by the increasing sophistication of the mathematical modeling of humankind, and he fills his book with stories of just how fine-tuned their efforts are becoming.  The models don't have to be intuitive.  For example, people who bought romance novels were also a demographic that liked to rent cars for weekend get-aways, and that kind of surprised the numerati, but it was a statistically significant correlation, so you can look for car rental Adsense advertisements the next time you purchase a romance novel from Amazon.

Single-word chapters make clear that the numerati are plumbing every aspect of our existence - "Worker," "Voter," "Lover," "Shopper," "Patient," "Terrorist" - and the computer scientists and mathematicians Baker interviews make a compelling case that while our behaviors can be erratic, that doesn't mean they're unpredictable.

Not by a long shot.

 


Comments (1)

Have something to say? Share your comments by signing in to your account, then returning to this page.

gawell@evpl wrote
on Friday, January 23 2009, 11:16am

"or just clicking on random ads online."

This seems to be the equivilent of T.V. channel surfing and only stopping at the commercial breaks. Erratic and odd.

One of the things about trends is that they are easier to detect than predict. Something very similiar happens with trying to set a trend, detect yes, predict no, probability forecasts are still  based on previous data and experience. A main point in conducting experiments is to discover the unknown.