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Big data: what can the internet tell us about who we really are?

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Pokemon Go, the iPhone 7, and Donald Trump. These were 2016’s most searched for terms on Google. And with over a trillion searches to draw on, it’s clear that they reflect what’s on our minds. But can Google searches tell us even more about ourselves? By pooling together huge aggregates of our search history – a form of “big data” – can Google reveal our deepest, darkest desires? And what can big data tell us more broadly about the human condition?

Delving into the world wide web this week, Ian Sample sits down with Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, a former Google data scientist and author of Everybody Lies, which claims that Google searches may be the the newest kid on the block when it comes to gathering data for social science. Joining them in the studio is the author of Big Data: does size matter?Timandra Harkness, who highlights some of the potential dangers in over-relying on big data and questions whether it even has the power to capture us in all our complexity.

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