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About Sheeps and Goats, Applying a Magic Sauce and Winning Elections

On a nearby mountain we recently saw two dwarf goats standing on the roof of their hut, Bruno and Leo – sturdy, perky and full of power.

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Quite a different mentality from that of sheep. Sheep seem to be more interested in following their herd.

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You can imagine that it needs a different method for approaching goats or sheep. Or for targeting humans behaving in similar manners. Scientists and marketeers are researching methods to deal with the different types – and the latter want to get the sheep eating what they want to offer them.

Now, if someone finds what kind of psychograms the different animals in a crowd have, it would be much easier to get them run in the “right” direction. And if politicians show this “right” direction, and scientists develop the psychometric instruments, and marketeers cleverly “tailor” such tools for delivering ads and other steering methods, the “ignorant animals” will unknowingly be driven in the wanted direction by eating the food prepared to their “Likes”. The outcome will be an explosive mixture for “guiding” the sheep  – the ROI, the “return on investment” being highly intelligent and effective mass manipulation.

Last Saturday’s issue of the weekend magazine “Das Magazin” of the Swiss newspaper “Tageszanzeiger” – a paper not at all close to conspiracy theories – published an article called “I have only showed that the bomb exists“. It is about a young Polish researcher, Michal Kosinski, who just gave a talk in Switzerland at the Risk Center of the ETH Zurich about the dangers of Big Data and the so-called digital revolution.

The topic of big data and their power in marketing is not new to me but I felt the article quite alarming. Maybe you can read it with the help of Google translator or so. The information below is mainly from this article.

Michal Kosinski is a leading expert in psychometrics, a data driven branch of psychology. He first worked at the first psychometric laboratory at the University of Cambridge, England, and now is working at Stanford University, USA. His research lead to new and very effective ways of profiling great amounts of persons from out of the digital traces they leave on the internet, especially Likes. You can test it on the site of Cambridge University “Apply Magic Sauce” (a personalisation engine that accurately predicts psychological traits from digital footprints of human behaviour). Kosinski’s research showed that from a few Facebook “likes” the intelligence, religious affiliation, alcohol, cigarette and drug consumption can be calculated, besides many of their attitudes, and even if the parents of a person have remained together until their 21st year of age. And it goes much beyond.

Against Kosinki’s intention and knowledge his research was used to develop very effective mass targeting tools by a British enterprise, Cambridge Analytica (CA) – “Better Audience Targeting, Powered by Data Modelling”. These instruments are not only marketing boosters but they were used to steer people with targeted news and other ways of influencing in the Brexit campaign and now in Trump’s election campaign – and they are much more effective than what was known upto now. The head of Cambridge Analytica declared “We have psychograms of all adult US citizens – 220 million people”. On their website a video is shown with a quote by a political pollster: “There are no longer any experts except Cambridge Analytica. They were Trump’s digital team who figured out how to win.”

Euphemistically, Cambridge Analytica boasts that they are “building a future where every individual can have a truly personal relationship with their favorite brands and causes by showing organizations not just where people are, but what they really care about and what drives their behavior.” Marketing speech for intelligent manipulation. Have a look at their website and you will understand better.

With these tools, 175000 versions of Trumps messages, slightly varying according to the target persons, were given out. The team of Trump’s electoral assistants got an app to recognize the political attitude and personality of the residents of a house. They contacted only those whom the app showed as receptive to their messages, and they carried text guides adapted to the personality of the resident they approached. Here is a TV report of SkyNews with a talk of Mr Nix, the head of Cambridge Analytica, from YouTube about their influencing the election.

The members of the Clinton team first were laughing about these British data people. Now, many (right-wing) political parties in Europe are becoming clients of Cambridge Analytica, and the business has requests from all over the world. I am sure that soon legislation here will have to react on these methods. Kosinski, the researcher whose findings enabled all this, declares that he has not built this bomb but only showed what is possible.

Power (politics) and money (business) together are a dangerous mix. They need to be guided by wisdom, i.e. by ethical and moral guidance – and this not only as “marketing speech” declarations. And we ourselves need to develop a high degree of discrimination and loving understanding not to let ourselves get dragged into what others define as “what we really care about”.

In other words, we must firmly stand in the light of our soul and act from there. And we need to have a clear view of what those of the “world” around want us to. Like Bruno and Leo looking around from their viewing platform.

P.S. (6 Dec.2016): An article in the German version of the Wired magazine discussed the claims of Cambridge Analytica (CA) and pointed out that the cooperation between CA and the Brexit campaneers did not work out and that the way they are using data from Facebook etc. for profiling without permission of the users is against European data protection laws.

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