Mindfuck by Christopher Wylie
This is probably the non-fiction book that’s had the biggest impact on me for a while. I’ve seen, heard and followed smaller snippets of Cambridge Analytica’s crimes for a while. However, I had no idea how deep this went and the extent of the horrible crimes against both humanity and democracy that this company was (still is?!) participating in and enabling.
Of course, from a perspective of data analysis and data integration for modern marketing, this is a book that is a horrible receipt on how you as a marketer today, can create data-driven, highly customized communication towards potential customers, to persuade them to buy your product or service with extraordinary results – done right. That is a side note. It’s not why you should read this book.
This book is about identifying systems, psychological warfare and seeing the burning building that the majority of the population are trapped inside and in some cases are addicted to. A building that can manipulate the people inside it by using their own behaviour against them. And how data can be misused by the people with enough money to create a world that they want to see.
Attention and data is the new oil of the world, and who controls that, can control the world. As we seen here in the west with Brexit and the election of Trump. Platforms like Facebook can further enhance the segregation between people, a stark contrast to the “community” they claim to be and offer their users. (Users is a term that only technology companies and drug dealers use for their customers, that irony is not lost on me…)
Facebook makes an average of $30 from each American on their platform alone, that’s 170 million times 30. Which ends up with $510 000 000 for the American market. One of the features with Facebook is that you can target people very precisely and use data to find similar people. A function that is the other side of creating echo chambers for people on the platform. To show the users more of what drives engagement – not challenging world views or feeding into curiosity or further development.
The same tools and tactics that deceived people in the UK and the US have been utilized in Africa. While reading the book I had to put it down after reading page 149 and gather myself. Where it was revealed that in project ads placed on Google Ads drove traffic to a website with propaganda videos with real torture and murder of people to sway opinions in an election.
It does not get better from there in terms of what Cambridge Analytica and their customers are capable of. But all the more important to read on and educate oneself of the full scope of this.
This book and the information in it is important. It’s well written and easy to read with references and analogies that will help anyone understand what is happening here. This is not a technical book that is hard to understand, it’s an easy well written and a highly educational book written in an interesting way and use of language. If you read one book this year, please make it this one to understand the depth of manipulation of systems and laws that people with enough money can get away with.
Marketers have a responsibility, we are contributing to our requests for data and for technology towards this type of world. We are in my opinion in a position of power as we contribute with money that we buy advertising/attention/engagement for. What we choose to do with that money places us in a position of power.
I work in the digital industry, in some projects touching these aspects of “crafting customer experiences” that drive revenue. Using the same technology and functions as being used to both manipulate and in some cases drive violent behaviour. True, all things can be misused but the most horrible realisation is that it’s being misused daily and that no-one is being held responsible for the crimes that have been committed. Boris Johnson is Primeminister of the UK. Facebook is thriving and at the end of the day – everyone got away and in some instances even got to rule the country.
It’s all to twisted to be true. But it’s not only true this is our reality today.
This book left me with questions that I’m grappling to answer. As I’m a pro-human, pro-democracy and pro-people making well-informed decisions.
- How can we as marketers contribute towards a digital world where peoples privacy is respected?
- How can we contribute towards turning this around?
- How can I contribute towards driving change in this area? in redistributing the power to the people?
I used to think that the internet was magic, filled with possibilities only – now the dark side was revealed to me and it’s a monster.