End the duopoly

Long Before Cambridge Analytica And Facebook, Simulmatics Linked Data And Politics

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Caption If Then: How the Simulmatics Corporation Invented the Future, Jill Lepore Caption If Then: How the Simulmatics Corporation Invented the Future, by Jill Lepore It’s a big election year, and one party’s candidate is the successor to a popular two-term president. A little-known company offers the other party, which is in disarray, technology that uses vast amounts of data to profile voters. The election is incredibly close — and the longshot candidate wins.

This was 1960, not 2016, and the winning ticket was John F. Kennedy, not Donald Trump.

The little-known — and now nearly entirely forgotten — company was called Simulmatics, the subject of Harvard historian and New Yorker writer Jill Lepore’s timely new book, If Then: How the Simulmatics Corporation Invented the Future .

Before Cambridge Analytica, before Facebook, before the Internet, there was Simulmatics’ “People Machine,” in Lepore’s telling: “A computer program designed to predict and manipulate human behavior, all sorts of human behavior, from buying a dishwasher to countering an insurgency to casting a vote.” Lepore unearths Simulmatics’ story and makes the argument that, amid a broader proliferation of behavioral science research across academia and government in the 1960s, the company paved the […]

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