Faked Artworks, Liars, Axe Murderers, Pornhub, Liverpool’s Set Pieces and Entrenched Beliefs

Faked Artworks, Liars, Axe Murderers, Pornhub, Liverpool’s Set Pieces and Entrenched Beliefs
September 10, 2018 Paul Tomkins


Last week Daniel Rhodes recommended that I read Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us about Who We Really Are by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, and amongst many other things it briefly covers the work of Bill James, and Moneyball. (I had also read James’ latest book this summer, about using research to detect the previously unrecorded rampage of a Victorian axe murderer. More on that later.)

Everybody Lies is largely about the biggest datasets in history – Google searches, and the searches of some other massively popular websites (including Pornhub) – and how it reveals much more about Americans’ secret thoughts, which included how searches for racist jokes spiked when Barack Obama was elected President (which suggested that rather than having gone away, as many people assumed, racism was simply lingering under the surface, hidden in online searches, waiting for a white knight – or an orange man-child with piss-yellow “hair” – to stoke those vile flames).

More amusing are some of the sexual searches, which show some funny tendencies, the best of which is the comparison between how often men and women google “how to perform oral sex”; women proving much more diligent than men in seeking answers to please their partners, whilst half of men’s searches on the subject relate to how to perform it on themselves. 

These, of course, are not the kind of things that people will admit in a survey, especially on the street to someone with a clipboard, with the total anonymity of Google providing a safe place to ask the truest questions. Indeed, one of the most interesting aspects of the book is just how much people lie about themselves on sites like Facebook and Instagram. (Twitter, meanwhile, is just everybody being angry.) The data with what people say about their spouses on Facebook contrasts sharply with the main searches people enter into Google.

The book is also about how we can have too much data, and not know what to do with it. It talks about having too many variables, and trying to find patterns in things where no correlation exists; but where, if you search enough things, some connections will appear. 

To me, this sounds like pareidolia, which I think we can all be guilty of. 

Pareidolia (/pærɪˈdoʊliə/ parr-i-DOH-lee-ə) is a psychological phenomenon in which the mind responds to a stimulus, usually an image or a sound, by perceiving a familiar pattern where none exists. Common examples are perceived images of animals, faces, or objects in cloud formations, the Man in the Moon, the Moon rabbit, hidden messages in recorded music played in reverse or at higher- or lower-than-normal speeds, and hearing indistinct voices in random noise such as that produced by air conditioners or fans”.

A fair bit of the book can be applied to football, which is often what we try to do on TTT: learn about life, psychology, biases, sociology, behaviours,  etc., and apply it to the game we love.

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