from the world's big
Everybody Lies, But Google May Know the True You.
Has Google become our modern confessional? Former Google data scientist Seth Stephens-Davidowitz discusses how Google knows you better than your friends and family--maybe even yourself. He is the author of Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are.
Everybody lies--to friends, families, and their significant other. But we appear to be brutally honest with our Google searches.
We seem to be typing our deepest, darkest fears into the ubiquitous search box. Unlike the curated and somewhat aspirational characters we portray on social media, our Google searches offer a window into the human psyche.
"I think there is something cathartic about telling things to Google that you don’t tell to anybody else," says Seth Stephens-Davidowitz. Stephens-Davidowitz is the author of the best-selling Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are, and a former data scientist at Google. He is also a Harvard-trained economist who received his BA in Philosophy from Standford; a data scientist attracted to the bigger questions in life.
To the data scientist, our relationship with Google is acting as a digital truth serum of sorts. What we tell others, and perhaps even what we tell ourselves, is different from how we act with a Google search--what comes out when we feel nobody is watching.
Somebody is watching, of course, and Google has made this data (without identifying characteristics of the searcher) available to researchers and other interested parties. For someone like Stephens-Davidowitz, this is a data goldmine. In the process, we can better understand the gulf between our "stated preference" on surveys and social media, and our "revealed presence" that comes out in Google searches.
In other words, there is a dramatic difference between the Facebook self and the Google self. Given that Facebook is for public consumption, the "social desirability bias" kicks in to influence our expressed beliefs towards those seen as more socially acceptable. Google searches, on the other hand, free us from the confines of social expectations--letting out a more authentic, and perhaps less desirable, self. Are we more racist then we project on social media? Do parents treat their sons and daughters differently, while espousing equalitarian beliefs on Facebook?
Do We Have Multiple Personalities Online?
"I think it is interesting that we learn that people have these multiple identities," says Stephens-Davidowitz. "Cause usually we only see one one of these identities; we see the external identity. With this data we how complicated people are, how they have multiple sides."
Who Are We? is a question we have been pondering throughout the ages, but the trove of data from Google--and its ability to glean insight into the human condition--is adding an unusual twist. Is the real me what I search for? Is this different from what I express to those close to me?
"I think there are scenarios in which a person can’t say something to a partner, but can say something to Google," says Stephens-Davidowitz. The author mentions different situations where a person may feel bothered or insecure about something and wouldn't feel comfortable talking to their significant other about it. A Google search has become a confident of sorts, a non-judgmental therapist. To Stephens-Davidowitz, our Google search habits remind him of a confessional used in Catholicism.
What is the Responsibility of Google?
If Google knows us better than our friends, family, and significant other, that also indicates a potential responsibility. As a de facto therapist or confessional, Google finds itself in a position far more consequential than displaying the best Thai restaurants in town.
Stephens-Davidowitz gives the example of people searching about suicide. Generally speaking, Google takes a completely hands-off approach with their underlying algorithm. Google doesn’t like to mess with the formula, they just like to show you what the formula gives you.
The original search results were hands-off, spitting out the results of the powerful formula as is. “For whatever reason, and this shows a darkness at the heart of the human psyche, some of the top returns initially when searching 'thinking of committing suicide' were message boards where people were telling people to do it." Stephens-Davidowitz continues, "I think Google realized in this case they couldn’t just sit back and let the algorithm show people whatever it was going to show. They had to step in and they put at the top of everything a suicide hotline people could call."
The Power of Predictive Analytics
It has been five years since the viral story about Target knowing a high school girl was likely pregnant before her own father knew. The girl's father was unaware of the pregnancy until he received pregnancy-related coupons from Target, which had connected the buying patterns with a likely pregnancy.
Likewise, Stephens-Davidowitz talks about the power of big data to make some pretty remarkable predictions. He discusses the situation where researchers at Microsoft, using data from Bing searches, could determine whether of not someone was going to get the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer a few months before actually receiving the diagnosis.
With great power, however, comes great responsibility. Predictive analytics, especially in the area of health, raise significant concerns about how the data could be used by employers and others. "There are potential pluses to knowing all this," says Stephens-Davidowitz. "You can potentially diagnose diseases, fight hatred, or help children who are being abused. And there are potential darker sides."
"I don't think big data is good or bad," he says. "Big data is powerful."
Educators and administrators must build new supports for faculty and student success in a world where the classroom might become virtual in the blink of an eye.
- If you or someone you know is attending school remotely, you are more than likely learning through emergency remote instruction, which is not the same as online learning, write Rich DeMillo and Steve Harmon.
- Education institutions must properly define and understand the difference between a course that is designed from inception to be taught in an online format and a course that has been rapidly converted to be offered to remote students.
- In a future involving more online instruction than any of us ever imagined, it will be crucial to meticulously design factors like learner navigation, interactive recordings, feedback loops, exams and office hours in order to maximize learning potential within the virtual environment.
A leading British space scientist thinks there is life under the ice sheets of Europa.
- A British scientist named Professor Monica Grady recently came out in support of extraterrestrial life on Europa.
- Europa, the sixth largest moon in the solar system, may have favorable conditions for life under its miles of ice.
- The moon is one of Jupiter's 79.
Neil deGrasse Tyson wants to go ice fishing on Europa<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="GLGsRX7e" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="f4790eb8f0515e036b24c4195299df28"> <div id="botr_GLGsRX7e_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/GLGsRX7e-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/GLGsRX7e-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/GLGsRX7e-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div>
Water Vapor Above Europa’s Surface Deteced for First Time<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9c4abc8473e1b89170cc8941beeb1f2d"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/WQ-E1lnSOzc?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
New study shows white dwarf stars create an essential component of life.
- White dwarf stars create carbon atoms in the Milky Way galaxy, shows new study.
- Carbon is an essential component of life.
- White dwarfs make carbon in their hot insides before the stars die.
What Are White Dwarf Stars?<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="7b046e546ce994682b2553a8c978eb32"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/77a1KSxfaR0?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Master negotiator Chris Voss breaks down how to get what you want during negotiations.
- Former FBI negotiator Chris Voss explains how forced empathy is a powerful negotiating tactic.
- The key is starting a sentence with "What" or "How," causing the other person to look at the situation through your eyes.
- What appears to signal weakness is turned into a strength when using this tactic.
3 Tips on Negotiations, with FBI Negotiator Chris Voss | Best of '16 | Big Think<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="b86d518e9f0c9f9d7a7c686e07798152"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/-FLlBchonwM?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>This question forces a response, but—and this is key—the other person has to consider your side of the argument. They have to look at the situation from your perspective if they hope to offer a solution.</p><p>Offering a real-world example, Voss mentions coaching a high-end real estate agent. They were leasing an expensive home in the Hollywood Hills. The first time the negotiators asked the "how" question, the leasing agent relented on a number of terms. A little while later, they asked again. This time, the agent said, "If you want the house you're going to have to do it," signaling that the end of negotiations had been reached. </p><p>Voss says that "how" is not the only word that works. "What" is also a powerful entry into negotiations, such as "What am I supposed to do?" Again, you're forcing the other person to empathize. </p><p>This is a particularly tricky skill during a time when most conversations are online. Nuance is impossible without the immediacy of pantomimes and vocal fluctuations. Whataboutism is too easy an escape. </p>
Aikido Morihei Ueshiba (1883 - 1969, standing, centre left), founder of the Japanese martial art of aikido, demonstrating his art with a follower, at the opening ceremony of the newly-opened aikido headquarters, Hombu Dojo, in Shinjuku, Tokyo, 1967.
(Photo by Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)<p>Online debates often amount to little more than frustrated individuals pulling out their hair. In his book, "Against Empathy," Yale psychology professor Paul Bloom writes that effective altruists are able to focus on what really matters in everyday life.</p><p>For example, he compares politics to sports. Rooting for your favorite team isn't based in rationality. If you're a Red Sox fan, Yankees stats don't matter. You just want to destroy them. This, he believes, is how most people treat politics. "They don't care about truth because, for them, it's not really about truth."</p><p>Bloom writes that if his son believed our ancestors rode dinosaurs, it would horrify him, but "I can't think of a view that matters less for everyday life." We have to strive for rationality when the stakes are high. When involved in real decision-making processes that will affect their life, people are better able to express ideas and make arguments, and are more receptive to opposing ideas. </p><p>Because we "become inured to problems that seem unrelenting," it's imperative to make the problem seem immediate. As Voss says, giving the other side "the illusion of control" is one way of accomplishing this, as it forces them to take action. When people feel out of control, negotiations are impossible. People dig their heels in and refuse to budge. </p><p>What seems to be weakness is actually a strength. To borrow another martial arts metaphor, negotiations are like aikido: using your opponent's force against them while also protecting them from injury. Forcing empathy is one way to accomplish this task. You may get more than you ask for without the other side ever realizing they surrendered anything.</p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>