On our reading list: The Human Face of Big Data

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Rick Smolan enlisted an unusual partner for the release of his new coffee table book, The Human Face of Big Data — FedEx. Yes, Smolan orchestrated a meeting with the shipping giant so that 10,000 copies of the book would be delivered simultaneously today, November 20, to a large group of influential people around the world, ranging from Barack Obama to Anna Wintour of Vogue to Jiang Jiemin of PetroChina.

Smolan, who spoke at TEDYouth this weekend and called on the teenage attendees to become Data Detectives, says that when he first started hearing about “big data,” he thought it was “hot air and buzzwords.” But as he tells The New York Times, his interest began to grow as he heard more about the possibilities that the vast amount of data generated minute by minute could have for all of our daily experiences.

The book, co-written with Jennifer Erwitt, seeks to highlight the projects parsing big data in fascinating ways. Through beautiful photography and essays, the book gives an account of how big data could improve our health, energy consumption and interpersonal relationships. In other words: It’s a lot more than just a bunch of ‘0’s and ‘1’s.