Cambridge Analytica and the Plot to Break America
Victoria, British Columbia native Christopher Wylie is wicked smart. He left school at age 16 without a diploma and when asked about his future plans, he wrote "just another dissociative smear merchant peddling back room hackery in its purest Machiavellian form." He put his computer skills to work for the Canadian Liberal Party, did a brief stint with the Obama campaign and then at the age of 20 began studies at the London School of Economics and did some work for the UK Liberal Democrats. While in London he eventually connected up with SLC Elections, a firm later renamed Cambridge Analytical. He was deeply involved in Cambridge Analytica's work for the Trump campaign and its work on the EU Referendum. Wylie is the whistleblower that brought Cambridge Analytica down and Mindf*ck: Cambridge Analytica and the Plot to Break America tells his story. This is one of the most important books you will read this year. Wylie knows how to write and his story is as engaging as anything flowing out of the pens of Ian Fleming or John Le Carré - except it is all true. Wylie documents and explains how firms like Cambridge Analytics use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other internet resources to harvest our data, target us and manipulate our opinions. With this data, political campaigns can tailor messages to different classes of voters to encourage or discourage them to vote in an election. Wylie also shows us that social media firms are not in the business of connecting us with our friends but are in the business of harvesting and marketing our data to who ever will pay for it. Wylie grabs us by the collar and shows us how social media use various apps to harvest not only our data but the data of our friends and contacts. He also introduces us to the emerging new fields of computational psychology and computational sociology and describes how the firms that harvest our data use social media apps to produce social media enabled psychological profiling. Wylie refers us to studies that use computer models that can predict a person's behavior more accurately than their friends and co-workers. Wylie also describes how political campaigns us this kind of profiling to promote "voter disengagement" - aka voter suppression. We also learn how Cambridge Analytica set up the "crooked Hillary" narrative and Wylie lays out how the alt-right is a well coordinated global movement. Wylie weaves together intrigue, adventure, peril, scandal, and genocide with revelations on page after page that will have the reader muttering "holy shit!" under their breath. In Wylie's book Aldous Huxley's Brave New World and George Orwell's 1984 meld together and pick up nuggets from other dystopian novels to paint a modern nightmare and Wylie grabs your attention on every page - unfortunately the nightmare Wylie paints is true.