The Numerati

By Stephen Baker
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Hardcover, 9780618784608, 256pp.)

Publication Date: September 2008

Other Editions of This Title: Paperback

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Description

"Steve Baker puts his finger on perhaps the most important cultural trend today: the explosion of data about every aspect of our world and the rise of applied math gurus who know how to use it." --Chris Anderson, Editor-in-Chief of Wired Magazine (Wired Magazine )

An urgent look at how a global math elite is predicting and altering our behavior -- at work, at the mall, and in bed

Every day we produce loads of data about ourselves simply by living in the modern world: we click web pages, flip channels, drive through automatic toll booths, shop with credit cards, and make cell phone calls. Now, in one of the greatest undertakings of the twenty-first century, a savvy group of mathematicians and computer scientists is beginning to sift through this data to dissect us and map out our next steps. Their goal? To manipulate our behavior -- what we buy, how we vote -- without our even realizing it.

In this tour de force of original reporting and analysis, journalist Stephen Baker provides us with a fascinating guide to the world we're all entering -- and to the people controlling that world. The Numerati have infiltrated every realm of human affairs, profiling us as workers, shoppers, patients, voters, potential terrorists -- and lovers. The implications are vast. Our privacy evaporates. Our bosses can monitor and measure our every move (then reward or punish us). Politicians can find the swing voters among us, by plunking us all into new political groupings with names like "Hearth Keepers" and "Crossing Guards." It can sound scary. But the Numerati can also work on our behalf, diagnosing an illness before we're aware of the symptoms, or even helping us find our soul mate. Surprising, enlightening, and deeply relevant, The Numerati shows how a powerful new endeavor -- the mathematical modeling of humanity -- will transform every aspect of our lives.

STEPHEN BAKER has written for BusinessWeek for over twenty years, covering Mexico and Latin America, the Rust Belt, European technology, and a host of other topics, including blogs, math, and nanotechnology. But he's always considered himself a foreign correspondent. This, he says, was especially useful as he met the Numerati. "While I came from the world of words, they inhabited the symbolic realms of math and computer science. This was foreign to me. My reporting became an anthropological mission." Baker has written for many publications, including the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, and the Boston Globe. He won an Overseas Press Club Award for his portrait of the rising Mexican auto industry. He is the coauthor of blogspotting.net, featured by the New York Times as one of fifty blogs to watch.




About the Author

STEPHEN BAKER was BusinessWeek's senior technology writer for a decade, based first in Paris and later New York. He has also written for the Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, and the Wall Street Journal. Roger Lowenstein called his first book, The Numerati, "an eye-opening and chilling book." Baker blogs at finaljeopardy.net.




Praise For The Numerati

"A highly readable and fascinating account of the number-driven world we now live in." The Wall Street Journal

"[A] bracing behind-the-screen investigation into the booming world of data mining and analysis . . . fascinating." Booklist, ALA, Starred Review

"Highly recommended for general readers with an appreciation for contemporary cultural phenomenons." Library Journal

"An eye-opening read for even the techiest among us." Bookpage

"Deserve[s] a spot on your shelf." Steve Rubel, AdAge

"A well-considered take on a hard-to-grasp subject." Kirkus Reviews

"Stephen Baker could have easily gone for spooky in this depiction of the Numerati . . . but Baker's deep reportage goes beyond smart shopping carts that entice us to run up our grocery bills and political messages crafted on our preference for Chianti . . . The Numerati, Baker writes, try to model 'something almost hopelessly complex: human life and behavior.' They're making progress."

Time Magazine

"'The Numerati' is a book about math that won’t cause liberal-arts majors to heave it across the room. The slender volume contains not a single esoteric Greek letter or mystifying equation. What’s more, writer Stephen Baker artfully conjures up vivid images to explain what he’s talking about and why a reader should care." Christian Science Monitor

"Utterly fascinating . . . Baker, a veteran journalist at BusinessWeek, manages to explain this cutting edge phenomenon and its sometimes-frightening impacts in accessible prose . . . Baker also does not shy from potential problems with all this data mining and analysis . . . Baker's accessible prose and analysis illuminate this startling new world and its potential problems." Seattle Post-Intelligencer

"'The Numerati' is a kind of travelogue, a report from the shadowy regions where data mining, the search for new algorithms and the divination for the hidden meanings disclosed by our choices animates a type of research that was impossible to imagine before the computer . . . an interesting book . . . Baker knows well that the Numerati cannot answer the big questions, like where do we go from here? But perhaps they can help us avoid falling off whatever cliffs we decide to peer over." The Oregonian

"Crisp, well-reported ... Baker writes with smooth and accessible assurance." - San Francisco Chronicle

"An eye-opening and chilling book." - Portfolio

"Baker singles out the danger to privacy the Numerati and their techniques represent, but he doesn't take sides. He also points out the advantage of Amazon knowing what books you want, or an insurance company offering discounts to drivers who install electronic monitoring equipment in their cars . . . still, he paints a pretty scary picture." - Chicago Sun-Times

"Deserve[s] a spot on your shelf . . . Baker details how companies are hiring math geeks to dissect and make sense of mountains of data to spot everything from consumer patterns to future terrorists." -- Steve Rubel, AdAge

"'The Numerati' is fascinating and a bit frightening -- a well-written consideration of why you might want to drive a different way to work every now and then, or buy ginger ale rather than Coke, just to throw 'them' off a little." -- Utah Daily Herald

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