If Then
A review of

If Then

How the Simulmatics Corporation Invented the Future

Jill LeporeLiveright • 2020

Pioneering (Incompetent) Analytics

by David Meyer

Historian, professor and best-selling author, Jill Lepore turns her intelligence, insight and wit to the saga of a seminal data analytics company and how it predicted the future.

New Yorker writer Jill Lepore – Harvard professor of American history and host of the podcast The Last Archive offers a surprisingly gripping story of a tiny company almost nobody remembers: The Simulmatics Corporation, which sold its clients predictions of human behavior deduced from computer simulations.

Its short, often shaky run, Simulmatics played a role in some of the most epochal events of the 1960s, including the election of John F. Kennedy, the Vietnam War and the civil rights movement. Lepore – who can make any subject compelling – details how this long-forgotten firm’s theories and practices reappeared in the predictive analytics of Facebook, Amazon, Cambridge Analytica and Google, among others.

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