Search This Blog

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

"Big Data" Science, Elections, and "A Taste of Armageddon"

"A Taste of Armageddon"
There's a long article at the WSJ about how the Obama campaign used "big data" to sway the electorate.

As the Lone Wolf I am intimately familiar with the notion of big data because its what drove the last great printing Ha Rah of "personalized marketing."  You remember, the expensive casino marketing pitch that was personalized to your specific tastes?

But what does this mean for politics?

Certainly I might care about immigration and you about free education and I might get a specific mailer or call relating to that different from yours.

But what about this: "Multivariate tests identified issues and positions that could move undecided voters..."

Altering a position to sway a voter...?

So unlike personalized marketing that merely offers different choices to recipients we now change our basic position to get more folks into the "will vote for me" pool."


Taken to a not very unrealistic extreme campaigning becomes merely collecting data about a population and fabricating a "straw man" candidate that that has the largest total area in the Venn diagram of possible voting segments.

Then you simply convert the real candidates positions to that of the straw man and you win.

Good thing there are no core "principles" or "morals" to get in the way.

As I pointed out yesterday our society is veering away from critical thinking and independent thought;  this model clearly shows how a lack of education makes manipulation of the voting population more effective.

But isn't this the same thing big, evil corporations do?

Poison the land, air and water while making convincing marketing arguments that they are not?

Soon there will be an iPhone app that fill in your details (as the WSJ article says: "... some 80 pieces of information about each person, from age, race and sex to voting history.").

We can all do that and then allow the National Voting Server to simply scan our phones and manufacture a digital candidate that will win.

No one would really even notice.

After all they don't notice that voting is tomorrow when asked how hey voted today.  They don't know anything about the political system save for what "big data" tells them.

And they willingly accept "big data" as their source of information.

Anyone who lived in a "swing" state during the last election will tell you that they were literally bombarded day and night with polls and sampling.

Of course, polling is also marketing because you tend to ask leading and revealing questions about your positions while you probe for information.  So I suppose that the marketing and sampling also skews the electorate to some degree.

Everyone is now jumping on the "big data" bandwagon...

What's fascinating is how "big data" in "big elections" dehumanizes the process.

In the 1960's Star Trek covered this in "A Taste Of Armageddon" - an episode where war is conducted between two planets by virtual computer simulations.  If a "virtual bomb" strikes you you must report to the "disintegration booth" to be vaporized.

War is conducted this way because the "[A] conventional war was deemed too destructive to the environments and societies of both planets."

Perhaps actually letting the citizenry decide without a blitzkrieg big data pollsters is too destructive. 

What is perhaps most fascinating is that in February of 1967 this topic was suitable for the "working man" to watch at home for entertainment; you know, "Joe Six Pack."  The series lasted for two more years after the first (this episode aired in the first) so clearly it was not beyond anyone's ability to understand or comprehend.

Perhaps "Joe" was better educated that today's college graduate - what else would explain why something like this would survive for so many years to come?

Today you don't see anything like this anywhere.

A satirical display of how things "might become" because we have turned into the evil that these shows from forty or more years ago have predicted.

I have little doubt that, with the right marketing and big data, idiots would stream to the "disintegration booth" for termination in a virtual war if they thought it would stop global warming and save the pandas.

Such is the power of big data and big marketing.

How prescient of the writes of the episode: Robert Hamner and Gene L. Coon.

We too are headed for a life where we cannot function "alone" without some device to help us through the day.  A life where we cede decisions to others when we should take the time to understand the issues and make them ourselves.  A life where we willing accept what "big data" tells us to do.

But, like the domesticated dog who is some 30% less intelligent than his wild counterpart, we will pay a price...  

No comments:

Post a Comment