Friday, March 23, 2012

Mirror, Mirror On The Wall, Do The Data Tell It All?

Stephen is not like Bill. He is what they call a "quant," a number lover. For years he's been keeping track of his days, his nights, his walks, his talks, his phone calls, his emails, his keystrokes (yes, the number of times his fingers have hit computer keys and — I kid you not — the number of times he's backspaced; he has that too! ) "I have," he says, "what is probably one of the world's largest collections of personal data." Bill and Steve see the world through very different lenses. Bryson talks in painterly prose. Wolfram talks in data sets, but Wolfram's numbers tell tales too. For example, look at this. These are all his emails, plotted as dots. They track twenty years of his life, and describe someone who's been emailing constantly – especially after 2002. His chart is oddly organized. more

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