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If Then: How the Simulmatics Corporation…
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If Then: How the Simulmatics Corporation Invented the Future (edició 2020)

de Jill Lepore (Autor)

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Títol:If Then: How the Simulmatics Corporation Invented the Future
Autors:Jill Lepore (Autor)
Informació:Liveright (2020), Edition: Illustrated, 432 pages
Col·leccions:La teva biblioteca
Etiquetes:history, politics

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If Then: How the Simulmatics Corporation Invented the Future de Jill Lepore

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Can't recommend. Lepore does not seem to have put in the time to understand the tech that she's writing about, or its implications in terms of "inventing the future", or the how very far it was from anything like "inventing the future". Simulmatics, from what she writes, does not seem like a particularly visionary enterprise. Instead it seems more like the Theranos of its time - a startup founded on some potentially legitimate and interesting ideas and charismatic leadership that absolutely failed to deliver on its technical promises, and probably never actually had the capacity to back up those promises, and which ultimately had little significance for anyone not directly involved. ( )
1 vota kiparsky | Sep 21, 2021 |
Everyone accepts that the Big Tech companies have a massive impact on society today and that this impact manifests itself most clearly in behaviour modification through social media. These companies achieve this impact through ubiquitous technology, primarily mobile phones, complex AI-driven so-called ‘algorithms’ that relentlessly select what to show you next, and ‘big data’, access to huge volumes of information about you and everyone else. It is generally believed that this technology was invented and developed from the 2010s onwards. This book from Jill Lepore sets out to debunk that idea.

After the Second World War we start to see the emergence of the commercial computing industry and the expansion of this technology into areas outside the purely military. Almost from the very start social and behavioural scientists saw an opportunity to use computers to analyse large volumes of data with the objectives of, firstly, provide reliable classifications of large numbers of people; secondly, using this data to predict the general responses of these people to particular events or stimuli; and, thirdly, to identify ways to affect the behaviour of these people. Of course, the first area to apply these ideas was in politics - analyse the electorate, understand what impact policies have on voting intentions and influence how those votes are cast. Although mistrusted by almost everyone, these early limited attempts were reasonably successful and laid down almost all the key principles that we understand today as making up ‘social media’ and how it operates.

Lepore follows the creation and short life of one company, Simulmatics, as it used ‘big data’ and ‘algorithms’ to analyse, predict and alter the behaviour of various groups of people to the benefit of its clients. The company, formed in the late 1950s, applied its behavioural science technology to advertising, presidential electioneering and, most disastrously, to the war effort in Vietnam, before bankruptcy wound the organisation up in the early 1970s.

In the 1960s there was a growing awareness of, and antipathy to, the use of this technology and some attempts were made to establish regulatory controls and limits around what ‘privacy’ meant and what could be done with ‘big data’. These failed because everyone was focused on the potential for misuse by government and only a few people, who were ignored, saw the potential for such misuse by commercial companies. So, when private companies started using these technologies to analyse and influence people for profit, there was no regulation to haul them back, and we are where we are.

Lepore’s book is interesting, surprising and eminently readable with good research. She has the ability to use well-selected anecdotes to emphasise her points and keep us interested.

I think this is an excellent history of technology and an important foundation to understand why behavioural science technology has got us into such a muddle and to indicate how we might get out of it. ( )
  pierthinker | May 30, 2021 |
A very informative study on the infancy of computer research focusing on the first company in that area, Simulmatics Corporation. The book follows a wide array of the companies' founders and families over the years. The first major use of their data was by the Kennedy campaign to help him defeat Richard Nixon. However, their information was only as good as the data they were able to get (through interviews, surveys, etc.). so there will be a colossal failure in their trying to aide our government during the Vietnam War. The book is quite thought provoking about the evolution of computer use up through today. ( )
1 vota muddyboy | Mar 28, 2021 |
Wide-ranging 60s/70s behavioral sci ARPA history; amazing links to modern internet and big data issues; very interesting historical anecdotes and details. ( )
  JosephKing6602 | Feb 25, 2021 |
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