Stephen Baker The Numerati

ISBN 13: 9780618784608

The Numerati

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9780618784608: The Numerati
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"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.

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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.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

What will the Numerati learn about us as they run us into dizzying combinations of numbers? First they need to find us.
Say you're a potential SUV shopper in the northern suburbs of New York, or a churchgoing, antiabortion Democrat in Alburquerque. Maybe you're a Java programmer ready to relocate to Hyderabad, or a jazz-loving, Chianti-sipping Sagittarius looking for walks in the country and snuggles by the fireplace in Stockholm, or--heaven help us--maybe you're eager to strap bombs to your waist and climb onto a bus.
Whatever you are--and each of us is a lot of things--companies and governments want to identify and locate you. The Numerati also want to alter our behavior. If we're shopping, they want us to buy more. At the workplace, they're out to boost our productivity.
When we're patients, they want us healthier and cheaper. As companies like IBM and Amazon roll out early models of us, they can predict our behavior and experiment with us. They can simulate changes in a store or an office and see how we would likely react. And they can attempt to calculate mathematically how to boost our performance. How would shoppers like me respond to a $100 rebate on top-of-the-line Nikon cameras?
How much more productive would you be at the office if you had a $600 course on spreadsheets? How would our colleagues cope if the company eliminated our positions, or folded them into operations in Bangalore? We don't have to participate, or even know that our mathematical ghosts are laboring night and day as lab rats. We'll receive the results of these studies--the optimum course--as helpful suggestions, prescriptions, or marching orders.

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