Summary of “Web Searches Reveal What We’re Really Thinking”

What are the weirdest questions you’ve ever Googled? Mine might be: “How many people have ever lived?” “What do people think about just before death?” and “How many bits would it take to resurrect in a virtual reality everyone who ever lived?” Using Google’s autocomplete and Keyword Planner tools, U.K.-based Internet company Digitaloft generated a list of what it considers 20 of the craziest searches, including “Am I pregnant?” “Are aliens real?” “Why do men have nipples?” “Is the world flat?” and “Can a man get pregnant?”.
This is all very entertaining, but according to economist Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, who worked at Google as a data scientist, such searches may act as a “Digital truth serum” for deeper and darker thoughts.
As he explains in his book Everybody Lies, “In the pre-digital age, people hid their embarrassing thoughts from other people. In the digital age, they still hide them from other people, but not from the internet and in particular sites such as Google and PornHub, which protect their anonymity.” Employing big data research tools “Allows us to finally see what people really want and really do, not what they say they want and say they do.”
People may tell pollsters that they are not racist, for example, and polling data do indicate that bigoted attitudes have been in steady decline for decades on such issues as interracial marriage, women’s rights and gay marriage, indicating that conservatives today are more socially liberal than liberals were in the 1950s.
Using the Google Trends tool in analyzing the 2008 U.S. presidential election Stephens-Davidowitz concluded that Barack Obama received fewer votes than expected in Democrat strongholds because of still latent racism.
This difference between public polls and private thoughts, Stephens-Davidowitz observes, helps to explain Obama’s underperformance in regions with a lot of racist searches and partially illuminates the surprise election of Donald Trump.
More optimistically, these declines in prejudice may be an underestimate, given that when Google began keeping records of searches in 2004 most Googlers were urban and young, who are known to be less prejudiced and bigoted than rural and older people, who adopted the search technology years later.
As members of the Silent Generation and Baby Boomers are displaced by Gen Xers and Millennials, and as populations continue shifting from rural to urban living, and as postsecondary education levels keep climbing, such prejudices should be on the wane.

The orginal article.