« | Home | Categories | »

The Data That Turned the World Upside Down

Posted on February 1st, 2017 at 3:30 by Sueyourdeveloper in category: News


Anyone who has not spent the last five years living on another planet will be familiar with the term Big Data. Big Data means, in essence, that everything we do, both on and offline, leaves digital traces. Every purchase we make with our cards, every search we type into Google, every movement we make when our mobile phone is in our pocket, every “like” is stored. Especially every “like.” For a long time, it was not entirely clear what use this data could have—except, perhaps, that we might find ads for high blood pressure remedies just after we’ve Googled “reduce blood pressure.”

On November 9, it became clear that maybe much more is possible. The company behind Trump’s online campaign—the same company that had worked for Leave.EU in the very early stages of its “Brexit” campaign—was a Big Data company: Cambridge Analytica.

To understand the outcome of the election—and how political communication might work in the future—we need to begin with a strange incident at Cambridge University in 2014, at Kosinski’s Psychometrics Center.

Hari Seldon would be proud.

Write a comment


  1. I thought Putin was behind it all.

  2. Perhaps Mr. P. is a useful idiot 🙂

  3. I think you’ll find it was the 61,900,651 fools who fell for the con and voted for Trump.

    Also responsible are the 95,000,000 morons who refused to vote at all, thus enabling the ascent to the presidency of this monster. You had the chance to prevent this civilisation-shattering event and you did not take it.

  4. Hari Seldon would have known the consequences and designed a failsafe. Then again, Seldon was playing the long game – maybe the Electoral College is the 2nd Foundation and we just got nudged back onto the plan.

    Still, it feels like the US just elected The Mule.

  5. @Mr. P.: I’m sorry, you can’t go around calling our mate Will a moron. Let’s just say he might not yet understand what a hugely unlikely and importantly historic privilege it is for any human to have the possibility of a vote at all. No-one said that democracy wasn’t hard.

    @Jim: I fear that this is likely, but I might be over-reacting. Gwynne Dyer gives the view of someone older and wiser even than I 🙂

  6. @Sue: Sorry, I didn’t vote. Both candidates were unpalatable to me. Interesting enough, it seems about 47% of the people are being labelled morons. Shades of Romney!

    Somehow, everything will work out. It always does.

  7. @Sue : No, I’ll stand by what I said. The preciousness and rarity of the privilege of voting is understood. It was extremely hard won, particularly for women and others deemed unworthy of the franchise. This makes it more than a shame that so many Americans chose not to vote. It’s even worse when the choice was not between Tweedledum and Tweedledee but between an adult and a destructive, petulant child dressed unconvincingly in adult’s clothes. Democracy may be hard but it doesn’t take genius to work out when you are being played for a sucker. Trump’s entire career has been an endless series of cons and yet Clinton ends up being called Crooked Hillary. Endless virulent repetition of a Big Lie obviously makes it stick, at least to people who aren’t really paying attention or get their news from Fox or Breitbart or other liars.

    @Will: I didn’t like Hillary either, not least for her smugness and entitlement. But Trump was of another order entirely. As I said previously, he is a clear and present danger to the Republic and to the world beyond. Nice that you think everything will work out. For you they probably will, at least in the short term. But the rest of the globe shudders.

    Trump and his handlers and his minions are rapidly dismantling all the protections that so many rely on. From clean air, drinkable water and safe food to consumer protection, the safety of workers and reasonable healthcare – all are in grave danger. This rabble is out to destroy all that should be held dear and all truths that should be self-evident.

  8. @porpentine: Hillary just promised more of the same. Are you saying these endless wars are good? Trump hasn’t even had a chance to start one yet. Besides that, your comments are just more of the endless media drivel which hasn’t been proven yet. “This rabble is out to destroy all that should be held dear”? Are you kidding me! Look around you, all we hold dear is in danger with or without Hillary.

    Your comments seem somewhat imperialistic. Hillary and her supporters failed because they assumed the Presidency was her right before the election even occurred. We need better candidates and I don’t see anywhere in your comments that any are on the horizon. That’s what’s needed, not hand wringing over Hillary’s failure.

  9. Galbraith said something like, “Every revolution is the kicking-in of a rotten door.”

    There has been a Revolution. Not many expected it. There may well be others. What happens next is not very clear (and will probably be caused by a series of accidents), but there is reason for concern, imo.

    Mr. Trump as Kaiser Bill is my guess, but I’m just a silly old lady 🙂

    Meanwhile we all go on burning fossil fuels even faster than before.

  10. @Sue: I guess we’ll know by 2020 which character Trump resembles. He seems unique so far but Hitler and Stalin didn’t have twitter.

    I fear it’s too late to prevent the fossil fuel melt down. There are a number of catastrophes, such as volcanoes or asteroids, which might slow the heating effect. Maybe we’ll get lucky.

  11. The United States is not a democracy. It is a democratic republic. That means the people have little control over what the elected officials do apart from not re-electing them. However, Trump is one the few presidents that is actually doing what he said he would. Good or bad, we haven’t seen that in a long time.