A lot of smart guys, such as Scott Alexander of SlateStarCodex.com, worry about the AI robots taking over and enslaving humanity. I don’t, not because I’ve figured out a flaw in their reasoning but because I haven’t. So therefore they seem pretty smart and I leave it to them to worry about complicated stuff like that while I worry about dumber stuff that nobody else is yet worrying about like the UN’s forecast that the population of Africa will octuple from 1990 to 2100.
Did big data sink the Clinton campaign?
by David Auerbach
February 23, 2017
… “People took Michigan for granted,” said the Michigan Democratic congresswoman Debbie Dingell, on the day after the election, by way of explaining the Clinton campaign’s shocking loss. The Great Lakes state, in combination with Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, was supposed to have formed a “firewall” against a Trump win. Yet Clinton’s campaign had a skeletal ground organization in Michigan and ran no local advertising until the very last week of the campaign, when Team Hillary launched a last-minute ad blitz. In the end, turnout in Detroit was down 75,000—13 percent—from 2012, and Clinton lost Michigan by 10,000 votes.
Not enough “walking around money” in Detroit?
The core of Clinton campaign strategy was their analytics system, developed by dozens of researchers who were led by Clinton’s director of analytics, Elan Kriegel, in close consultation with campaign manager Robby Mook. … The oracle of the system was “Ada,”
Presumably named after Lord Byron’s daughter Ada Lovelace, Charles Babbage’s theoretician of software.
“Ada” as a name didn’t work out well for the Pentagon in the 1970s, either.
a big-data simulator that issued up-to-the-minute probabilities on Clinton’s chances by state and county. Throughout the general election, Ada backed her arguments for a decisive Clinton win in the Electoral College with a ton of stats. But Ada, and all her numbers, turned out to be wrong.
… But the campaign missed a critical lesson when they didn’t take stock of Sanders’s upset in Michigan, which Clinton had been favored to win.
Why did Ada fail in Michigan? The primary and the general election were different contests, but both suggest that the failure lay in Ada’s model of the electorate—or more precisely, her inability to update her model of the electorate. In the general election, Ada told Clinton that Wisconsin was a lock, that Michigan was not a problem. But it wasn’t so much that Ada’s cake arbitrarily failed to rise; the failure was in the recipe. In an election where a great realignment took place
This was the realignment I suggested back on November 28, 2000.
—where thousands of voters in Rust Belt states who had voted for Obama twice now turned to Trump—Ada had not been programmed to detect the possibility of that realignment.
But who is going to listen to a badthinker like me? Hillary and her people would rather preserve their honor by losing.
… Once the initial analysis showed that Clinton was favored to win in certain states, Ada helped prevent the campaign from questioning her conclusions. “They weren’t running a massive program because they thought they were up 6–7 points,” a senior operative told the Huffington Post. Ada’s recommendations reinforced themselves. By deallocating resources from Wisconsin and Michigan, Ada starved herself of data that might have caused her to recognize a problem.
Well, there’s your problem.
… What was validated, ultimately, was the internal consistency of the campaign’s initial assumptions. Those assumptions, and Ada’s apparent statistical support for them, caused so much inertia that the Clinton campaign starved Michigan of resources and ignored Wisconsin’s low-enthusiasm Clinton supporters, many of whom ended up not voting. …
This was Ada’s failure: she went wrong early and no one ever noticed. What Ada needed to do was to generate recommendations for collecting new data most likely to falsify her recommendations—like ground-level voter verification throughout Michigan, or interrogating turnout in the “safe” Clinton districts of Pennsylvania. Only an aggressive attempt to falsify would have broken the hermetic seal on Ada’s model.
Maybe that’s how SkyNet will take over: by telling us only what we want to hear?