Books to Make You Smarter: Dataclysm

Full disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Penguin Random House Canada in exchange for an honest review.

Perhaps unsurprisingly given its subject matter, Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One’s Looking), has been all over the Internet the last few weeks.

Christian Rudder is a co-founder of the online dating site, OkCupid and has access to an incredible amount of data. You probably already realized that Rudder is an exceptionally brilliant individual (he did help set up a website based on algorithms after all) but I think you will still be blown away with what this man can do with data. In Dataclysm, he takes this data and manipulates it to tell the truth about people, the truth about us when we’re not busy pretending to be someone we’re not.

I’m not going to lie, it’s not a pretty picture all the time. When we think no one is looking we have a tendency to be racist, misogynistic and homophobic. We are also ageist and have a tendency to rate beauty more highly as a favourable characteristic than we should.

But there were also glimpses of hope in there. Like the fact that social media isn’t killing language, it is expanding it. According to Rudder, ” language is more varied than ever before […] From high flown language of literary fiction to the simple, even misspelled, status update, through all this writing runs a common purpose […] we use words to connect.”

There was also a graph in the book about how pizza is basically the most popular food ever and that’s something that I totally relate to.

I think my favourite discussion in the book was about relationships and your facebook friends. The theory was basically that those relationships where there was the highest overlap in friends were the most successful because those partners were a part of all the different parts of each others’ lives: highschool and university friends, families, co-workers etc. If you want to give it a try (and you should because it’s cool to see) click here.

At times this is a really technical book – it is a book based completely on mathematics after all. Rudder even points out that he’s the exact opposite of Malcolm Gladwell who takes a statistic and builds a very personal story around it. Rudder takes all the numbers and looks at what they all tell when they are combined and at times, in an effort to explain the numbers’ sources, it was a little over my head. But then he charmed me back with his extremely readable and relateable prose (he called Dr. Phil a “grinning warlock” on the first page and basically won me over then and there).

I think you will like this one if you’re curious about the behind-the-scenes social media scene, if you like to be able to pull out stats and facts at parties or if you’re just looking for some interesting non-fiction to read this season.

11 thoughts on “Books to Make You Smarter: Dataclysm

  1. I always think books like this sound so interesting, and I want to read them, but then I (almost) never do. I don’t know why, but I do know that about myself. These are the kinds of books that I want my friends to read (like you, for example), and then tell me about. If people want to read this book to feel smarter, then they are going to need an audience. That will be me. 🙂 After reading your review, I am off to a good start!

    • There are so many books out there that we want to read that it becomes necessary to weed out some of them! I so understand what you mean about wanting to read certain books and then just never getting around to it. But if this review makes you think more seriously about giving this book a shot, then I’m doing something right! It was an incredibly interesting and eye opening read but I love books like this.

  2. I agree 100% with Naomi, I always say I’m going to read more nonfiction like this and then I just never do it. I’ve seen some great reviews for this though, so this time I’m really going to try to do it!

    • I didn’t know that they posted stats on their blog – that would definitely make me curious to read more. This book has them all! I don’t know what the e-version would look like but the real book has wicked colour graphs in it.

  3. I adored this book, how much it made me think (both good and bad) and how I couldn’t help but share all of it’s juicy bits with whoever happened to be near me while I was reading.

  4. This (and everyone’s reactions) reminds me of Flash Boys. A slightly technical read, not something you’d look forward to same as some fiction books, but once you have the information inside you, you realise how much it underpins everybody’s lives.

    OKcupid is not a bad dating site! I think it lets you get a good idea of what the other person is like. And it’s not like some dating sites I could mention, which can’t cope when you want to tell it you’re a lesbian 😦

    • Flash Boys is totally a book that I want to read. I’m glad to hear that it sounds similar to this one – might actually be something I will enjoy!

      That’s really sad that there are dating sites out there that are discriminatory like that. Isn’t the whole point that people find someone to spend their life with? I’d have hoped that those systems were a little more blind to those kinds of prejudices.

  5. Pingback: “Dataclysm” by Christian Rudder | Zezee with Books

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