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Event Summary

Tuesday at AEI, Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, the author of “Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are” (Harper Collins, May 2017), discussed how internet search engines provide a huge amount of newly available data and that people often reveal their true selves more directly through internet searches than through survey responses. He used this new data to explore different political and social trends in the United States. For example, he found a high correlation between the frequency of searches for racist terms and the difference in votes for Barack Obama and John Kerry in each locality.

Columbia University’s Andrew Gelman disputed the claim that people lie more in surveys, countered that polls are generally accurate due to respondents’ motivations, and argued that internet searches do not necessarily represent one’s true self. Dr. Stephens-Davidowitz responded that surveys have more inaccurate responses than before, and his definition of lying includes the element of unconscious behavior that Dr. Gelman’s definition does not include.

FiveThirtyEight’s Harry Enten stated that correlation does not always mean causation. He discussed how data journalism, which uses tools such as Google Trends, is becoming increasingly popular and has huge potential for fields other than politics.

–Hao-Kai Pai

Event Description

On an average day, internet searches worldwide amass about eight trillion gigabytes of data. This staggering amount of information can reveal who we are in greater detail than we ever thought possible.

In his new book “Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are” (Harper Collins, May 2017), Seth Stephens-Davidowitz uses big data to dive into topics such as economics, ethics, and sports. He offers insights that can help us understand ourselves better, revealing biases deeply embedded within us, information that can change our culture, and the questions we are afraid to ask that might be essential to our health — both mental and physical.

Copies of the book will be available for purchase at the event.

Join the conversation on social media by following @AEI and @AEIecon on Twitter and Facebook.

If you are unable to attend, we welcome you to watch the event live on this page. Full video will be posted within 24 hours.


Agenda

3:45 PM
Registration

4:00 PM
Introduction:
Stan Veuger, AEI

4:05 PM
Presentation:
Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, author

4:20 PM
Discussion

Participants:
Harry Enten, FiveThirtyEight
Andrew Gelman, Columbia University
Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, author

Moderator:
Stan Veuger, AEI

5:10 PM
Q&A

5:30 PM
Reception


Event Contact Information

For more information, please contact Adele Hunter at [email protected], 202.862.4874


Media Contact Information

For media inquiries or to register a camera crew, please contact [email protected], 202.862.5829.


Speaker Biographies

Harry Enten is a senior political writer and analyst at FiveThirtyEight. Before working for FiveThirtyEight, he covered the 2012 election cycle with The Guardian. He graduated in 2011 from Dartmouth College with a B.A. in government, where he started Margin of Error, an elections statistics blog.

Andrew Gelman is a professor of statistics and political science and director of the Applied Statistics Center at Columbia University. He is one of the leading quantitative researchers at the interface of social science and statistics. He has received numerous honors and has written several books on statistical methods. He is also well-known for his blog Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference, and Social Science, which covers topics such as data analysis, statistical graphics, politics, social science, and academics in general. He received his undergraduate degrees in math and physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his Ph.D. in statistics from Harvard.

Seth Stephens-Davidowitz has used data from the internet — particularly Google searches — to get new insights into the human psyche. A book summarizing his research, “Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are,” was published in May 2017 by HarperCollins. Dr. Stephens-Davidowitz has used Google searches to measure racism, self-induced abortion, depression, child abuse, hateful mobs, the science of humor, sexual preference, anxiety, son preference, and sexual insecurity, among many other topics. He worked for one and a half years as a data scientist at Google and is currently a contributing op-ed writer for The New York Times. He is designing and teaching a course about his research at The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, where he will be a visiting lecturer. He received his B.A. in philosophy, Phi Beta Kappa, from Stanford and his Ph.D. in economics from Harvard.

Stan Veuger is a resident scholar at AEI, where his research is in political economy and public finance. He is also the editor of AEI Economic Perspectives. In the fall of 2016, he was a visiting lecturer of economics at Harvard University. Dr. Veuger’s research has been published in leading academic and professional journals, including the Journal of Monetary Economics, the Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, and the Quarterly Journal of Economics. He is the editor, with Michael Strain, of “Economic Freedom and Human Flourishing: Perspectives from Political Philosophy” (AEI Press, 2016). He also writes frequently for general audiences on economics, politics, and popular culture. His writing has appeared in Foreign Affairs, the Los Angeles Times, The National Interest, The New York Times, and USA Today, among others. Dr. Veuger serves as a board member of the Altius Society and as the chairman of the Washington, DC, chapter of the Netherland-America Foundation. He received a Ph.D. and an A.M. in economics from Harvard and an M.Sc. in economics from Universitat Pompeu Fabra. He completed his undergraduate education at Utrecht University and Erasmus University Rotterdam.

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