How 100 Years of Sex & Death Will Change Your Life Forever (Also: of Finance & Economics)


Google has just quietly introduced a paradigm shattering technology—called Ngram—that graphs how frequently words are used in books over the course of time.

But back to Sex & Death.

If you click on the link above, you see a graph. That graph shows how often those two words —sex and death—appear in print between the years 1908 and 2008.

The data source driving the graph is massive: The 15 million publications Google Books has scanned since 2004.

Rather than give a bloated explanation of how important this technology is, we'll just step out of the way and show you the data:

You can see the rising tides of war:

And of unemployment:

And poverty:

(Or, perhaps, just of rising concerns about poverty.)

You can see which Famous Economistis in vogue—Keynes or Friedman—and correlate it to the timeframe of U.S. election cycles.

You can witness our collective despair — viewed through the prism of theloss of faith in rationalism itself.

And when that gets depressing, you can turn to the merely idiosyncratic.

For example, by puzzling overthe popularity of existential

philosophers during the course of your lifetime.

You can get as meta and abstract as you like:

These are not the best, or even the most interesting, examples:

They're just the first ideas that leapt to mind.

We've approached the topic lightly.

Perhaps that was inevitable—due to the novelty factor of a technology emerging from nowhere.

But make no mistake: Ngram is not a fad or a passing internet meme.

This is no Dancing Banana.

We predict—a word seldom featured on this blog—an explosion in this technology.

And a rising demand for practical applications thereof.

What Google Labs showed us today is the scratch on the scratch of the surface.

The data sources will become wider and deeper. The analytics will get more complex. The structure of the search parameters will become more sophisticated.

Third parties will clamor for API access—in order to develop their own applications.

Today, you have witnessed the emergence of a brave new world—charted in red and blue.


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