It’s an irony of the second Age of Reason that the abundance of data—the effervescence of sources and ease of delivery—makes so many more questions answerable while at the same time making it very easy to get lost. We’ve dedicated an issue to exploration, to a broad, cross-platform look at the fruits of Big Data.
Asking provocative questions and employing data to find answers let us tell the backstory of class in America while also identifying the most dangerous U.S. intersection, the safest places to live and the secret capitals of line dancing, snowshoeing, beer drinking and brunch. We’ve dug into data on everything from pop star longevity to the cancer we don’t get to drug abuse trends, all of which are presented here as interactives, videos and graphics.
We are mindful of the risks that come with living in a golden age of information: the loss of privacy, of serendipity, of serenity. But, as we pointed out in our print issue, “what’s most exciting about our age of answers is its potential to change the quality of our lives.”
Photo-illustration by Zim&Zou for TIME
—By Emily Barone, April Bell, Kelly Conniff, Matthew Drake, Andréa Ford, Sam Frizell, Martin Gee, Alexander Ho, Samuel P. Jacobs, David Johnson, Heather Jones, Lothar Krause, Michael Lester, Cubie King, Salima Koroma, Jack Linshi, Julia Lull, Dan Macsai, Giri Nathan, Pratheek Rebala, Harry Swartout, Marie Tobias, Lon Tweeten, Matt Vella, Chris Wilson, and Justin Worland