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Billion Wicked Thoughts

StatPorn: that's a one-word summary of A Billion Wicked Thoughts: What the World's Largest Experiment Reveals about Human Desire, a 2011 book by Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam that I found on the new book shelf at the local library recently. It purports to be a statistical analysis of some huge data sets on Internet use of pornography, mega-samples of information extracted from search engines, surveys and usage logs. But there's no real discussion of self-selection, sampling errors, or bias, e.g., of the likely differences between people in general and the subset who dominate online porn-consumption.

Instead, the authors provide detailed examples and extensive, explicit quotations from a broad spectrum of erotica, along with annotated tabulations of popular search terms and pop-psychological "explanations", overgeneralized just-so stories that aren't justified in spite of the profuse notes and citations that occupy pages 247-383 of the hardback. It's rather reminiscent of the 1967 book The Naked Ape by Desmond Morris, a long-ago best-seller that similarly "explained" large swaths of human behavior based on loose evolutionary/socio-biological arguments. Both traded away rigor and nuance in exchange for drama and (the hope of) big book sales. Lead author Ogas is currently characterized in Wikipedia as "... a cognitive neuroscientist, science book author, and game show contestant". Hmmmmm ....

^z - 2012-04-24