Live notes from “The Data That Turned the World Upside Down”

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Ok, psychometrics is a thing, it is data-driven psychology. It focusses on measuring psychological traits such as personality. Personality specifically is broken down into five personality traits known as “the big Five” or OCEAN, these are:

openness (how open you are to new experiences?), conscientiousness (do you prefer plans or order?), extroversion (do you like spending time with others?), agreeableness (do you put other’s needs before yours?) and neuroticism (do you tend to worry a lot?)

Thats where Facebook comes in picture. All the data that is available on Facebook in terms of our likes, shares etc is enough to do a pretty accurate personality test of every individual.

on the basis of an average of 68 Facebook “likes” by a user, it was possible to predict their skin color (with 95 percent accuracy), their sexual orientation (88 percent accuracy), and their affiliation to the Democratic or Republican party (85 percent). From the data it was even possible to deduce whether someone’s parents were divorced.


Ok to all that is well known, although it is scary every time it is told how much of your life can be deduced from what is out there. And of course it is not just Facebook, its everything around you, recording your every movement. But, for now lets turn our focus to this company, Strategic Communication Laboratories or SCL. Its a company aimed at using the psychometric techniques to influence elections.

Some of the SCL offshoots have been involved in elections from Ukraine to Nigeria, helped the Nepalese monarch against the rebels, whereas others have developed methods to influence Eastern European and Afghan citizens for NATO. And, in 2013, SCL spun off a new company to participate in US elections: Cambridge Analytica.

Just Wow.

Ok so how does it play out. The CEO of Cambridge Analytica gives some fantastic examples in this must watch video. These examples show the level of control you can have in selling your propaganda. For example if you want to push a banner ad on second amendment, OCEAN mapping of your audience can dictate what your creative should say. To a person high on neuroticism a message that induces fear would be effective, whereas to a person who is high on agreeableness, a family values message would be more effective as they value traditions.

This is a scary line from the video. We don’t have to rely on creativity of people to come up with effective tag lines, data comes much before the creative process and dictates what the message should be.

On the day of the third presidential debate between Trump and Clinton, Trump’s team tested 175,000 different ad variations for his arguments, in order to find the right versions above all via Facebook. The messages differed for the most part only in microscopic details, in order to target the recipients in the optimal psychological way: different headings, colors, captions, with a photo or video.


The level of control this technique can have on our actions is unbelievable. Too bad it is not used to uplift people, become better human beings and other positive things. Instead it is used to make presidents out of puppets. I am out.

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