Thu, 17 September 2020

6:30 pm - 7:30 pm

How One Data Company Invented the Future

Harvard Professor Jill Lepore




Half a century before Facebook, Amazon and Cambridge Analytica – one firm harvested data, targeted voters, stirred up news, manipulated consumers and destabilized politics.

‘A person can’t help but feel inspired by the riveting intelligence and joyful curiosity of Jill Lepore. Knowing that there is a mind like hers in the world is a hope-inducing thing’ – George Saunders

Join one of America’s greatest living historians, two-time Pulitzer finalist Jill Lepore, as she delves into the hidden history of data science, revealing the untold story of The Simulmatics Corporation.

The pioneering women and men of Simulmatics conducted extraordinary campaigns that influenced the elections of Eisenhower and Kennedy, government think tanks, national newspapers, Mad Men ad firms, and even (and most shockingly) the conduct of the Vietnam war.

In this talk, Jill will shine a totally new light on the history of tech, politics, the Cold war, the hidden women involved, and – unavoidably – the issues facing our society today. She will show how the world we experience online today derives from the first weaponization of data.

Praise for Jill Lepore:

‘Back in the 1960s, long before the denizens of Silicon Valley were infiltrating every facet of our lives, the smart men and women of The Simulmatics Corporation were creating algorithms to predict and even influence human behaviour. Jill Lepore reveals how this forgotten company invented the data-weapons of the future. IF THEN is simultaneously gripping and absolutely terrifying’ – Amanda Foreman

‘Jill Lepore is the pre-eminent historian of forgotten tales from America’s past that throw startling light on the present. This brilliant book illuminates the future too. The story of the original data science hucksters of the 1960s is hilarious, scathing and sobering – what you might get if you crossed Mad Men with Theranos. It’s a reminder, in the age of Cambridge Analytica and whatever comes next, that we have been here before and should know better’ – David Runciman

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