Juan Enriquez, author of As the Future Catches You: How Genomics and Other Forces Are Changing Your Life, writes that “today, a street stall in Mumbai can access more information, maps, statistics, academic papers, price trends, futures markets and data than a U.S. president could only a few decades ago.”

He makes this observation in an essay in Smolan’s The Human Face of Big Data, which Smolan — a former National Geographic photographer — co-edited with Jennifer Erwitt. Early this month, Smolan and Erwitt sent copies of their book to 10,000 leaders and personalities in government, business and entertainment, from President Obama to Jordan’s Queen Noor to Justin Bieber.

“We need to have the smartest people on Earth aware of, and talking about this,” Smolan says.

Jonathan Harris, owner of the storytelling site cowbird.com, says a “few hundred” software engineers, mostly male and between 22 and 35, are writing data software around the globe that is “transforming the daily lives of hundreds of millions of people.”

“Previously,” Harris writes in Smolan’s book,” “this kind of mass transformation of human behavior was the sole domain of war, famine, disease, and religion, but now it happens more quietly, through the software we use every day.”