7 Things to Know About Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, revAlation Keynote Speaker

By Jason Rushin

Published on August 30, 2023

speaker speaking in front of a pinkish background in front of an audience.

Using data is critical to maintain competitive advantage, uncover new opportunities for growth, and drive innovation in compelling new directions. Those are all admirable goals for your data, for sure. But what about your more burning questions? Or, better yet, those burning questions you might hesitate to utter aloud? Like, do U.S. parents favor sons over daughters? What demographics correlate with racism? Does where you go to school really impact your career?

Enter Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, an economist, writer, and data scientist who has taken a keen interest in Google searches to uncover the human psyche. He’s used search data to investigate hot-button topics from racism and abortion to dating and sex, among many, many others. He’s also author of the bestselling and award-winning Everybody Lies and Don’t Trust Your Gut. He’s also the keynote speaker at this year’s revAlation 2023

Let’s get to know more about Seth Stephens-Davidowitz.

His Experience Ranges from Google to the New York Times

Seth earned a B.A. in philosophy from Stanford University and a Ph.D. in economics from Harvard University. He was a quantitative analyst at Google, a digital fellow at the Social Science Research Council, a visiting researcher at the Russell Sage Foundation, and eventually became a contributor to the New York Times while also lecturing, speaking, and writing books, articles, and research papers. 

He Digs Into Unconventional Topics

As Seth puts it, his work focuses on “using big-data sources to uncover previously hidden behaviors and attitudes.” Those things are hidden because, well, people lie about things that are uncomfortable or taboo. Sure, there’s the usual sex and dating lies, but Seth also digs into Google search data to discover how many of us are truly racist, how many men are truly gay, and how we favor sons over daughters.

Helping people in need is a core focus. By unpacking the patterns around searches typical to people in abusive relationships or situations, for example, Seth offers ways we might help those who are crying out for help in a Google search.

He Exposes Hidden Attitudes

In Seth’s 2017 book, Everybody Lies, he used Google search data to uncover the real truth about human behavior because, well, everybody lies. When you’re Googling for answers or comparing yourself to the masses from the darkness of your couch, however, you tend to tell the truth. You might not tell your friends that your love life is lacking, for example, but you may Google your real question to get an accurate answer. If you’re wondering, searches for “sexless marriage” are 350% more common than “unhappy marriage,” according to Seth’s research.

His New Book Offers Self-Help for the Data-Driven

"I read more self-help than anybody I’ve ever known," Seth admitted in his interview with Alation CEO Satyen Sangani. "I read everything, like how to get more powerful, how to get richer; when I was single, how to date, fighting depression." But Seth was frustrated by these books lack of evidence and data. 

"The evidence isn’t to the rigorous standard," he points out. "And so I wanted to write a book on all these topics where I’m… going to give actual evidence on it." In Don't Trust Your Gut, Seth has aggregated and analyzed troves of data to offer answers to life's most burning questions, from how to be a good parent to how to be happy.

Some of His Research Makes Me Uncomfortable (and that’s a good thing!)

It will likely make you uncomfortable, too. He looked at which areas of the U.S. search more for jokes containing the n-word. He debunked the notion that the NBA is comprised of players from mostly poor, stereotypical backgrounds. And, using search data from Craigslist, he investigated why the states with the least support for gay marriage have a larger share of ads for males looking for “casual encounters.”

His Research Is Fascinating

Beyond sex and prejudice, Seth has also used online search data to explore the effects of weather on depression, how Super Bowl ads impact movie ticket sales, the demographics of celebrity, what determines if people will actually vote, and how a baseball team’s success during a boy’s eighth year determines whether that kid will be a lifelong fan.

In this talk on data doppelgangers Seth reveals how brands predict your behavior by finding your “digital doppelganger” – which inform recommendation algorithms that guide you, from “what to watch” to “what medicine to take.”

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He’s Speaking at revAlation

Just as important as his research and writing is Seth’s upcoming slot as keynote speaker for revAlation.

Register now for revAlation 2023 and be sure to save your spot to hear from changemakers and data pioneers, share ideas on building a data culture, and learn what it means to empower people with data. Oh, and Seth Stephens-Davidowitz will be there, too.

  • His Experience Ranges from Google to the New York Times
  • He Digs Into Unconventional Topics
  • He Exposes Hidden Attitudes
  • His New Book Offers Self-Help for the Data-Driven
  • Some of His Research Makes Me Uncomfortable (and that’s a good thing!)
  • His Research Is Fascinating
  • He’s Speaking at revAlation
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