Big data knows where you've been and who your friends are. It knows what you like and what makes you angry. It can predict what you'll buy, where you'll be the victim of crime and when you'll have a heart attack. Big data knows you better than you know yourself, or so it claims.
But how well do you know big data?
You've probably seen the phrase in newspaper headlines, at work in a marketing meeting, or on a fitness-tracking gadget. But can you understand it without being a Silicon Valley nerd who writes computer programs for fun?
Yes. Yes, you can.
Timandra Harkness writes comedy, not computer code. The only programmes she makes are on the radio. If you can read a newspaper you can read this book.
Starting with the basics – what IS data? And what makes it big? – Timandra takes you on a whirlwind tour of how people are using big data today: from science to smart cities, business to politics, self-quantification to the Internet of Things.
Finally, she asks the big questions about where it's taking us; is it too big for its boots, or does it think too small? Are you a data point or a human being? Will this book be full of rhetorical questions?
No. It also contains puns, asides, unlikely stories and engaging people, inspiring feats and thought-provoking dilemmas. Leaving you armed and ready to decide what you think about one of the decade's big ideas: big data.
About the author
Timandra Harkness is a writer, comedian and broadcaster, who has been performing on scientific, mathematical and statistical topics since the latter days of the 20th century. She has written about travel for the Sunday Times, motoring for theTelegraph, science & technology for WIRED, BBC Focus Magazine and Men's Health Magazine, and on being 'Seduced by Stats' for Significance (the Journal of the Royal Statistical Society). She is a regular on BBC Radio, resident reporter on social psychology series The Human Zoo as well as writing and presenting documentaries and BBC Radio 4'sFutureProofing series.
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