Decades before Google or Facebook existed, a Madison Avenue advertising man started a company called Simulmatics based on a then-revolutionary method of using computers to forecast how people would behave. Formed in 1959, Simulmatics charged clients a hefty fee to access its "people machine" — a computer program that drew on polling information and behavioral science to predict mathematically the impact of an advertising pitch or political message. The New Yorker 's Jill Lepore writes about Simulmatics in her new book, If Then: How the Simulmatics Corporation Invented the Future. She describes company founder Ed Greenfield as a "small-time operator" with an interest in liberal causes. "He was a very devoted liberal ... and got into political...
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Collect Data, Influence Votes: 'If Then' Traces The Genesis Of Data-Driven Politics