The Coming Techno Apocalypse – New Dawn
While essentially unknown to the general public, the astounding technologies of the London based firm Cambridge Analytica (CA) are credited by some as having a fundamental role in the 2016 election of US President Donald Trump and the ‘Leave’ campaign that led to the UK Brexit. CA trumpets proudly on its website and in its strategic communications that they “use data modelling and psychographic profiling to grow audiences, identify key influencers, and connect with people in ways that move them to action.”
Birthed at the nexus of leading Cambridge University Psychometric scientists and the SCL Group (self-described as a ‘global election management agency’), Cambridge Analytica works big data to identify and manipulate the intentions of mass voter populations.
According to CA Chief Executive, Alexander Nix, “Today in the United States we have somewhere close to four or five thousand data points on every individual. So we model the personality of every adult across the United States, some 230 million people.” Harvesting Facebook ‘likes’, smartphone data, purchase histories, subscriptions, church visits, online and other available aggregate information, CA builds profiles of every individual in the target audience (i.e. every potential voter in the US during election season 2016) and generates a ‘psychographic analysis’ in combination with the OCEAN (‘openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism’) personality trait or ‘lexical hypothesis’ model to predict and influence the electoral actions of individuals.
As reported in the Swiss Das Magazin, with just ten Facebook ‘likes’ as input, CA could “appraise a person’s character better than an average coworker. With seventy, it could ‘know’ a subject better than a friend; with 150 likes, better than their parents. With 300 likes… (the) machine could predict a subject’s behaviour better than their partner. With even more likes it could exceed what a person thinks they know about themselves.”