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February 22, 2006

The book is about math

Stephen Baker

Publishers Weekly came out with a blurb about my book deal. So no need to keep it secret anymore. It's about math. I see in the blurb that thay're not planning to publish until spring of 2008! I'm hoping that if I work fast, we can move that date up. But what do I know? I'm a novice in this industry.

The blurb:

Elsewhere at Houghton, Amanda Cook preempted Business Week senior writer Stephen Baker's The Age of Numbers: In Which They'll Get My Number and Yours from agent James Levine. Baker's book charts mathematicians' increasing use of online data to map individual human behavior, and explains how the mining of this data will change every aspect of our lives. Cook acquired North American rights and will publish in spring 2008.

04:15 AM


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Congratulations, Stephen!

The reporting you did for that recent cover story really brought you full-on into the world of math, huh?

I will be interested in following whether -- and/or where -- you continue to blog.

Jeff Jarvis commented to one of your previous posts that "[y]our blog is where you are." Blogspotting is where you've been, but the new book is where you're going. Make sure you blog about that new place when you get there!

Posted by: Bryan Person at February 22, 2006 11:24 AM

So, Stephen: Which came first, the cover feature assignment or the book idea?


Posted by: Mike Driehorst at February 22, 2006 12:10 PM


I didn't think about the book until I'd already written one draft of the cover story. If you had told me a year ago that I'd have a book contract now, I never would have guessed that it would be about math.

Posted by: steve baker at February 22, 2006 12:50 PM

Have to say I never took my degree: I formally took a leave of absence and never went back. But In college I was pretty damn good at mathematics. As a mechanical engineering major I made sure I took a math course every semester, beyond the required courses.

Math: It’s a beautiful language. I really discovered this after taking linear algebra. I got a “D” the first time ‘round; 2nd time ‘round I pulled an A-. Unlike Advanced Calculus and Partial Differential Equations (received an “A” and “A-“ respectively), linear algebra took me for a loop. Everything was “explain this” or “prove that” as opposed to “find the answer.” I learned how much of an ass-kicker theory could really be. I also learned theory is essential to really knowing your stuff. Sure, this was imparted in my other math classes, too. But linear algebra took this to a whole notha level (as far as I’m concerned).

Matrices: I remember those things from that linear algebra class years and years ago. I also remember how a matrix could represent a system of equations, among other things. I often look at the system we live in as the matrix (fo’ real) and the internet as the one single thing (entity?) one either plugs into or gets left behind. (And this reasoning. I believe, is supported by the majority of the world’s population.)

A section of the blurb in your blog entry, Stephen, reads “Baker's book charts mathematicians' increasing use of online data to map individual human behavior, and explains how the mining of this data will change every aspect of our lives.”

Using data to predict human behavior has been going on for a good long time prior to the internet becoming so entwined with how we live. But the amount and accuracy of data available now because of the internet play in all this is unprecedented -- as will be the accuracy at predicting human behavior. All for the sake of manipulation. That’s the bottomline. And that’s the part I’m really not feeling at all.

But the science of all this sparks my curiosity.

Posted by: D. Harry at February 22, 2006 09:31 PM

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