In a world teeming with data, we ourselves become the math nerds' most prized specimens.
In The Numerati Stephen Baker, a Business Week senior writer, takes us on a guided tour (no maths required) through an unprecedented new era, in which mathematicians are starting to map individual human behaviour - what we do, who we are, how we work, chat, play and shop -- and in so doing, will change every aspect of our lives, from the kind of medical advice we get, to the adverts we see, to our appraisals at work, to the way politicians try to win our votes and protect us from terrorist attacks.
There's the robotic librarian using a combination of algebra and geometry to analyse thousands of press articles and blog posts in English.Then there are the mathematicians helping to map out advertising campaigns, changing the nature of research in newsrooms and in biology labs, enabling marketers to forge new one-on-one relationships with customers. Baker asks the fundamental question: If long articles full of twists and turns can be reduced to a mathematical essence, what's next? Will the power of mathematicians to make sense of personal data and to model the behaviour of individuals inevitably erode privacy?More and more of the world economy is falling into the realm of numbers.
The Numerati is a book about one of the great undertakings of the 21st century - the mathematical modelling of humanity. Much in the same way as neuroscientists are mapping our brains, mathematicians are mapping our individual behaviour -- everything that makes the individual distinct. Stephen Baker navigates us through a world that otherwise might seem remote or disconnected, but one which is absolutely relevant to our everyday lives.
Stephen Baker began covering technology for BusinessWeek as Paris-based European correspondent 1998. He moved to New York in 2002 as acting senior editor for info tech, and is now a senior writer. He is a leader in new media at BusinessWeek and coauthor of Blogspotting.net, a blog featured as one of the 50 blogs to watch by The New York Times.