There’s a very old saying: Watch what people do, not what they say.  Now that we have entered the age of Big Data this phrase holds new meaning.

In a recent article on Edge, Alex Pentland explains why:

“I believe that the power of Big Data is that it is information about people’s behavior instead of information about their beliefs…It’s not about the things you post on Facebook, and it’s not about your searches on Google, which is what most people think about…This sort of Big Data comes from things like location data off of your cell phone or credit card, it’s the little data breadcrumbs that you leave behind you as you move around the world.  What these breadcrumbs tell is the story of your life.  It tells what you’ve chosen to do.  That’s very different than what you post on Facebook.  What you put on Facebook is what you would like to tell people, edited according to the standards of the day.  Who you actually are is determined by where you spend your time, and which things you buy.”

Perhaps the saying should be amended: Watch how people spend their time and money, not what they post on Facebook.

© 2012 by Jonathan Wai

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or G+. For more of Finding the Next Einstein: Why Smart is Relative go here.

Recent Posts in Finding the Next Einstein

Love the Child, Not the Gift

A conversation with Sidney Moon and Felicia Dixon

What Happens to Students on the Fast Track to College?

Research on students entering college early shows generally positive effects

Irony: Brain Games Don’t Increase IQ, But Measure IQ?

Is Lumosity just an intelligence test?

Six Strategies on How to Rise to the Top in Any Field

Advertising legend David Ogilvy on how to rise to the top in any field

7 Lessons for Success, Including a Few You Haven't Heard

3. Being afraid to make mistakes will always hold you back.

1,339 U.S. Colleges Ranked by Average Student Brainpower

Colleges ranked by the brainpower of students