If Then

If Then

How the Simulmatics Corporation Invented the Future

Book - 2020
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"A brilliant, revelatory account of the Cold War origins of the data-mad, algorithmic twenty-first century, from the author of the acclaimed international bestseller, These Truths. The Simulmatics Corporation, founded in 1959, mined data, targeted voters, accelerated news, manipulated consumers, destabilized politics, and disordered knowledge--decades before Facebook, Google, Amazon, and Cambridge Analytica. Silicon Valley likes to imagine it has no past but the scientists of Simulmatics are the long-dead grandfathers of Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk. Borrowing from psychological warfare, they used computers to predict and direct human behavior, deploying their "People Machine" from New York, Cambridge, and Saigon for clients that included John Kennedy's presidential campaign, the New York Times, Young & Rubicam, and, during the Vietnam War, the Department of Defense. Jill Lepore, distinguished Harvard historian and New Yorker staff writer, unearthed from the archives the almost unbelievable story of this long-vanished corporation, and of the women hidden behind it. In the 1950s and 1960s, Lepore argues, Simulmatics invented the future by building the machine in which the world now finds itself trapped and tormented, algorithm by algorithm"-- Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York, NY :, Liveright Publishing Corporation, a division of W.W. Norton & Company,, [2020]
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9781631496103
1631496107
Branch Call Number: 006.3 Lepore 2020
Characteristics: xii, 415 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm

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📊 A remarkable work of history that covers the first people to open the Pandora's box of data science, used today to irk and irritate us with targeted ads, influencers, surveys, and the panoply of techniques that deliver clicks, attention, and votes to whoever pays for them. It's not just a book where the author makes a lot of unwarranted assertions. She has tracked down the original documents and interviewed witnesses, to give a portrait of the personalities involved in Simulmatics and what they did. They came along before vast amounts of data were readily available, but the idea was there, and there wasn't any looking back.

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NANCY STAUFFER
Oct 25, 2020

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