Who We Are (When We Think No One's Looking
Christian Rudder, 2014, Beaverton 306.46 RUD
Rudder is a founder of online dating site OkCupid. This book is mostly about the aggregate dating preferences of their users.
Most young women prefer slightly older men, older women prefer slightly younger men. Men prefer 20 year olds. Same-race preferences are strong. Etc.
Two interesting things about the book:
- The data presentation; interesting maps and graphs to present data as two dimensional fields, not averages and fit lines. The interesting numbers are outliers, and distinctive data stands out this way.
- The complex nuances of spying on the public, both commercial and NSA. Not a lot of ink is spilled about shifting power and wealth from individuals to organizations.
The people who use Facebook and OkCupid chose to trade privacy and independence for connection. They remain individuals instead of categories, and get short term rewards for letting computers help them make decisions, but in the long run they are channeled by algorithms designed by others. Does this make them more successful individuals, or encourage them to suppress their individuality to achieve goals chosen by others?
The book is food for thought. The author looks for different things in his data than I would. I hope he writes another book a decade from now, about how these systems reshape our goals, and our definition of the good. He will be 54, and his daughter will be a young adult; the data will change, and so will he.