Marta Komar's Reviews > Mindf*ck: Cambridge Analytica and the Plot to Break America

Mindf*ck by Christopher Wylie
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it was amazing
bookshelves: biografia, biznes, reportaż

After reading this book, I feel definitely less safe in the world. As I work in IT I already knew that private data safety isn’t the strength of the technological companies, but now I’ve learned unquestionably that fat scams are real. I also now know the strong argument for keeping the safety of private data, because if we won’t do this, we could let someone from the internet manipulate us and make us a puppet. Arguments like “I’m nobody, who could trace me and for what reasons?” should go away.

I’m aware that I could sound like a crazy person now, but Wylie’s story is true, and you can fact-check it and google it. But it's hard to believe. I’m still shocked a bit because the scale of this scam is really big.

What is it about?

You may already know that Zuckerberg (Facebook boss) was interrogated by the Congress of USA Commission. Maybe you’ve also heard the name Cambridge Analytica, but as far as I know, most of my friends haven’t known the details, what it was about and how serious it was. I didn’t know it either.

Well, Cambridge Analytica (CA) company have stolen the private data of Facebook users (a several dozen millions), and made their psychological profiles. After that, based on this knowledge, with the help of Artificial Intelligence and psychologists, they created hundreds of communicates that were using psychological effects (e.g. priming). Those effects were adjusted to the recipients’ profiles to manipulate them. CA spent several millions of dollars to get to those people and influence their decisions and draw for example anger. It’s a fact that where we are angry we think less about our behaviour consequences, and we generally begin to be less profound, and when it’s happening our decisions or choices could be made without objectivity.

And exactly this happened during the Brexit referendum in the UK and the presidential election in the USA when Donald Trump was elected. Those CA actions had the influence also for the alt-right beginning and rising negative effects like suspicion level of the society, more racist attitude and activities and who knows what else…

Sounds like a conspiracy theory…

Wylie describes everything with details. We have names, dates, circumstances, a lot of psychology and stories about campaign managing algorithms. Author knows everything about it because he was one of the main people who invented, started, and coordinated those actions. After a few years of living with frustrations against the CA manipulations, his moral spine came out stronger than fear. He decided to be a whistleblower and make public all evidence against CA.

It’s not a puff-piece

Wylie is writing about himself that he believed in the big idea. He thought that people would use his findings in a good way. And I want to trust that it’s true and not some kind of his pose. He doesn’t plead too much, and if yes, he writes: “I don’t know why I was doing this. I felt that something was wrong but I still was doing it”. This book carries emotions and it’s important that there isn't too much powder on it. It’s worth knowing that this guy was quite young when he started his career in CA. He was in his early twenties, and he already was managing such big projects. I really respect it.

The book about life

Some rare elements and explanations are really great in this book. For example, there is a great sight of the political “concrete” - fossilized politicians, both in the UK and Canada. We can perfectly see how tough it is to change anything in their world and also that their main goal is only to win and rule, not to build a strong country.

I was also delighted by all these details about sniper targeting and psychology, that was helpful in doing it. In fact, the knowledge, how to reach advertisements recipients and create target groups could be interesting to all marketers, because Wylie really well elaborates on how to do it. And it’s really evident that it’s not an easy process.

Explanation, how the author was “connecting dots” is also great. How he was learning, drawing conclusions, and what analogies he was using. It comes out that every, even the smallest experience could carry something useful. Wylie is interested in the fashion business and this led him to a universal thesis that could be reusable in every social life element, also in politics.

There are also a lot of other “bites”, for example, the conclusion that maybe China is working on their Social Credit System but the USA has also the counterpart: social behaviour modelling program. The main difference is the fact that China is a few steps before the USA and acts rather like a hammer, and the USA is more subtle in these actions. Or the interesting info, that was a mystery for me for a long time, about the high mobile devices saturation in Africans countries, like Kenya. It turned out that it’s because the environment (banks and infrastructure for sure) is not encouraging to create bank accounts, so people use telephone credits on mobiles as the currency and some part of the trade is based on these microtransactions.

This book made me realize how dangerous the whistleblowing was and how complicated it was to make this with so little problems.

Sad conclusions

I’m really delighted with this book, but the conclusions are at least depressing. I’m curious how big servers CA needed to have to save data from several dozen millions of Americans? And how everything was coordinated and organized, because it was so complex! I’m really impressed and also worried. And I’m also sad that people sort of Nix or Bannon have so big influence and possibilities.

This book is so much about today’s threats, that it couldn’t be more. The threat that is easy to see, usually ignites caution from the very beginning, and it’s maybe not as dangerous as subtle manipulations that are hard to see. They make us split into our own tribes and radicalized and nothing will change in this, because it’s easier to control people who don’t want to create unity and who are under the influence of strong emotions. And the fact that these emotions are ignited on the purpose, and the divisions artificial? There are only a few people who care about it.
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Reading Progress

November 24, 2020 – Started Reading
November 24, 2020 – Shelved
December 1, 2020 – Shelved as: biznes
December 1, 2020 – Shelved as: biografia
December 1, 2020 – Shelved as: reportaż
December 1, 2020 – Finished Reading

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