Uncharted: Big Data as a Lens on Human Culture
Jean-Baptiste Michel, Data Researcher
Our society has gone from writing snippets of information by hand to generating a vast flood of 1s and 0s that record almost every aspect of our lives. From this, a new way of understanding our world, our past, and possibly, our future, is emerging. In this talk, Jean-Baptiste Michel tells the story of how he teamed up with Google to analyze the text of millions of books. The result was a new field of research and a scientific tool, the Google Ngram Viewer, so groundbreaking that its public release made the front page of The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Boston Globe, and so addictive that Mother Jones called it “the greatest timewaster in the history of the internet.” Using this scope, Michel—and millions of users worldwide—are beginning to see answers to a dizzying array of once intractable questions. Yet dangers lurk in this ocean of 1s and 0s—threats to privacy and the specter of ubiquitous government surveillance. Michel takes audiences on a voyage through these uncharted waters.
Jean-Baptiste Michel is a TED Fellow and scientist who uses big data to help us better understand our world. In Uncharted, he tells the story of how he co-created the Google Ngram Viewer, the ground-breaking tool that jump-started the big data science of culture and society by analyzing eight million digitized books. “[Uncharted's] insights may shift our thinking about matters great and small,” says the Boston Globe.
Jean-Baptiste Michel is an entrepreneur, and scientist, and the co-author of Uncharted: Big Data as a Lens on Human Culture. He is the founder of the data science company Quantified Labs, an associate scientist at Harvard University, and a former visiting faculty at Google. He turned the massive Google Books library into an addictive tool for plotting cultural trends: the Ngram Viewer was used by tens of millions. His TED talks have been viewed nearly two million times. His work has been featured on the front page of The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Boston Globe, and he was named a Forbes' "30 under 30."