Monday, September 29, 2008


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 a savvy group of mathematicians and computer scientists are 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.

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.

By analyzing the data they gather about us, retailers are learning how to lavish big spenders with special attention and nudge cheapskates toward the door... The same algorithms originally used to combat e-mail spam by predicting its mutations are now being used to predict the mutations of the HIV virus...Researchers at Carnegie Mellon are studying the patterns of office e-mail to spot signs of subversive networks taking shape within a company...

Meet Stephen Baker on October 6, 2008 at the Princeton Barnes & Noble.