Good Books: The Numerati by Stephen Baker

I was drawn to this book by a chapter entitled “The Voter.” I had heard and read bits about how the US political parties would do microtargeting. The science of analysing and targeting voters came alive in this 30-page chapter, and that then encouraged me to sample other chapters in the book. As we are awash in data, analytics is going to play a key role in many industries. This book is a good starting point for starting to think about how to manage and make sense of data.

From Booklist: “Every click we make, every cell phone call, every credit-card purchase enlarges our “digital dossiers,” business journalist Baker explains in this bracing behind-the-screen investigation into the booming world of data mining and analysis. Our digital echoes collect in a vast ocean of data that marketers and government agencies alike are eager to trawl, if only it were charted. Enter the top-notch mathematicians Baker dubs the Numerati. Baker gamely visits eerily high-tech companies and speaks with algorithm wizards intent on quantifying everything we do in all arenas of life in order to mathematically model humanity and manipulate our behavior. Baker’s report on microtargeted marketing, the use of workplace data to “optimize” employees, the scrutiny of online social networks, and the robotic reading of millions of blogs supports his warning that we’re “in danger of becoming data serfs—slaves to the information we produce.” This is a fascinating outing of the hidden yet exploding world of digital surveillance and stealthy intrusions into our decision-making processes as we buy food, make a date, or vote for president.”

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.