If Then by Jill Lepore audiobook

If Then: How the Simulmatics Corporation Invented the Future

By Jill Lepore
Read by Jill Lepore

Recorded Books, Inc. 9781631496103
10.65 Hours 1
Format : Digital Download (In Stock)
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    ISBN: 9781705005477

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A 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, launched during the Cold War, mined data, targeted voters, manipulated consumers, destabilized politics, and disordered knowledge―decades before Facebook, Google, and Cambridge Analytica. Jill Lepore, bestselling author of These Truths, came across the company’s papers in MIT’s archives at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and set out to tell this forgotten history, the long-lost backstory to the methods and the arrogance of Silicon Valley. Founded in 1959 by some of the nation’s leading social scientists―“the best and the brightest, fatally brilliant, Icaruses with wings of feathers and wax, flying to the sun”―Simulmatics proposed to predict and manipulate the future by way of the computer simulation of human behavior. In summers, with their wives and children in tow, the company’s scientists met on the beach in Long Island under a geodesic, honeycombed dome, where they built a “People Machine” that aimed to model everything from buying a dishwasher to counterinsurgency to casting a vote. Deploying their “People Machine” from New York, Washington, Cambridge, and even Saigon, Simulmatics’ clients included the John F. Kennedy presidential campaign, the New York Times, the Department of Defense, and dozens of major manufacturers: Simulmatics had a hand in everything from political races to the Vietnam War to the Johnson administration’s ill-fated attempt to predict race riots. The company’s collapse was almost as rapid as its ascent, a collapse that involved failed marriages, a suspicious death, and bankruptcy. Exposed for false claims and even accused of war crimes, it closed its doors in 1970 and all but vanished—until Lepore came across the records of its remains. The scientists of Simulmatics believed they had invented “the A-bomb of the social sciences.” They did not predict that it would take decades to detonate, like a long-buried grenade. But, in the early years of the twenty-first century, that bomb did detonate, creating a world in which corporations collect data and model behavior and target messages about the most ordinary of decisions, leaving people all over the world, long before the global pandemic, crushed by feelings of helplessness. This history has a past; If Then is its cautionary tale.

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Summary

Summary

Finalist for the National Book Award for Nonfiction

Shortlisted for the Financial Times & McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award

#1 Amazon bestseller in Computer Simulation

An O Magazine Pick of Best Books of Fall

A London Observer Pick of Fall's Best Books

A 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, launched during the Cold War, mined data, targeted voters, manipulated consumers, destabilized politics, and disordered knowledge―decades before Facebook, Google, and Cambridge Analytica. Jill Lepore, bestselling author of These Truths, came across the company’s papers in MIT’s archives at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and set out to tell this forgotten history, the long-lost backstory to the methods and the arrogance of Silicon Valley.

Founded in 1959 by some of the nation’s leading social scientists―“the best and the brightest, fatally brilliant, Icaruses with wings of feathers and wax, flying to the sun”―Simulmatics proposed to predict and manipulate the future by way of the computer simulation of human behavior. In summers, with their wives and children in tow, the company’s scientists met on the beach in Long Island under a geodesic, honeycombed dome, where they built a “People Machine” that aimed to model everything from buying a dishwasher to counterinsurgency to casting a vote. Deploying their “People Machine” from New York, Washington, Cambridge, and even Saigon, Simulmatics’ clients included the John F. Kennedy presidential campaign, the New York Times, the Department of Defense, and dozens of major manufacturers: Simulmatics had a hand in everything from political races to the Vietnam War to the Johnson administration’s ill-fated attempt to predict race riots. The company’s collapse was almost as rapid as its ascent, a collapse that involved failed marriages, a suspicious death, and bankruptcy. Exposed for false claims and even accused of war crimes, it closed its doors in 1970 and all but vanished—until Lepore came across the records of its remains.

The scientists of Simulmatics believed they had invented “the A-bomb of the social sciences.” They did not predict that it would take decades to detonate, like a long-buried grenade. But, in the early years of the twenty-first century, that bomb did detonate, creating a world in which corporations collect data and model behavior and target messages about the most ordinary of decisions, leaving people all over the world, long before the global pandemic, crushed by feelings of helplessness. This history has a past; If Then is its cautionary tale.

Editorial Reviews

Editorial Reviews

“[Lepore] pulls no punches in criticizing the folly of trying to understand human behavior via algorithm, and the corrosive consequences of trying to hack democracy. The result is…a perceptive work of historically informed dissent.” Booklist (starred review)
“Lepore skillfully argues that their use of technology brought us to this current political climate.” The Observer (London)
“A beautifully written and intellectually rigorous account of the origins of the science of predictive analytics and behavioral data science in the cold war era.” Financial Times (London)
“A remarkable saga, sometimes comical, sometimes ominous: a ‘shadow history of the 1960s,‘as she writes….a plausible untold origin story for our current panopticon: a world of constant surveillance.” New York Review of Books
“Fascinating….One of her many strengths is the moral clarity that infuses her writing.” New York Times Book Review

Reviews

Reviews

Author

Author Bio: Jill Lepore

Author Bio: Jill Lepore

Jill Lepore, a New York Times bestselling author, is the David Woods Kemper ’41 Professor of American History at Harvard University and a staff writer at the New Yorker. Her many books include New York Burning, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; The Name of War, winner of the Bancroft Prize; The Mansion of Happiness, short-listed for the 2013 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction; and Book of Ages, a finalist for the National Book Award.

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Details

Details

Available Formats : Digital Download
Category: Nonfiction/Science
Runtime: 10.65
Audience: Adult
Language: English