Everything is boiling down to big data and what to do with it these days. On the one hand, there’s data collection, from the polls we take voluntarily to the information we just give away on our phones and social media accounts about our locations, preferences, and more. Then, on the other hand, there’s the analysis side of it. Companies have these huge stores of information and need to analyze them so that the information is of use to their decision making. Given the huge asymmetry between the US election predictions and outcomes, there’s clearly work to be done on this front.
A lot of this information seems really complicated and much too sophisticated for the average mind, but some new books have attempted to crack the code and make this mystery of big data accessible to regular people. Here are some of the best that have come out recently.
The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver. Having predicted voting outcomes with near 100% accuracy, Nate Silver spilled some of his secrets to good data predictions in his first book, The Signal and the Noise. In it, he discusses how weather forecasters have to balance truth against their TV ratings, how the great recession of 2008 was imminently predictable in hindsight but caught us blindsided anyways, and some of his own discoveries pouring over data for years on end. Although it’s a dense read, it’s a great jumping-off point for data analysis.
Dataclysm by Christian Rudder. After founding OKCupid, Christian Rudder found himself with massive amounts of data about people’s real dating preferences and how people’s expressed dating preferences differ against their dating behavior when they think nobody’s looking. Humorous and deeply insightful, Rudder walks readers through the process of discovering dating patterns in the age of internet dating.
Big Data Baseball: The Pittsburgh Pirates suffered 20 losing seasons in a row, causing team morale to sink and the franchise to be at risk. However, with a brand new data focused strategy, the team turned their streak all the way around in 2013. From the way the pitchers threw to the way the catchers framed pitches to never-before-seen infield shifts, the Pirates harnessed the power of the big data captured by modern instruments in every single MLB game to alter the trajectory of their legacy.
Data for the People by What’s His Face: With all the data each person produces on a given day, you may think that average citizens are losing their privacy to the exclusive benefit of big data-mining industries, but such is not necessarily the case. Regular people can reclaim control of all their data as long as they’re smart about how they produce it, to whom they give it, and how they harness it for their own personal use, from lowering the amount of energy they use to improving their health.
As issues surrounding personal data, privacy, and internet safety continue to make headlines, it’s important to be informed and well-read to keep yourself protected and abreast of the latest developments.