New Politics

In this new field of political science polls may be part of the arsenal analysts use to understand the electorate, but other demographic data will be guiding the analysis just as much if not more. Data on race, gender, age, ethnicity, address, family size, marital status, sexual orientation, vehicle type, income, medical history, and several other variables is woven together, to make a profile for every eligible voter in America.

In addition, in this new political scientists the experts don't qualify how sure they are about what their data indicates, they assume they know exactly what their analyses indicate. On some level this sort of thing has been going on for decades, maybe centuries, but is this sort of modeling of the people getting far more exact in it's explanatory and predictive power? Many political experts believe that it is.

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My next blog post will focus on the debate over the question of whether political behavior, in the aggregate, is reducible to a series of statistical properties. To be sure, not every political theorist believes that human behavior is reducible to statistical properties, and none say they can predict what 100% of the people will do 100% of the time.

However there is a lot of evidence that much of human behavior, when aggregated into very large numbers, essentially is reducible to a handful of statistical properties. Many people take great offense at this suggestion and I completely understand why. It makes human political behavior seem rather silly, rather prosaic if it's just something that can be reduced to statements of probabilities. That seems like an insult to humanity, saying that we're just like animals, or machines.

There's a natural question that follows: if experts can accurately predict what the people will do won't they use that knowledge to manipulate what we do? Won't it often be tempting for political operatives to do so?

Many would remark that this already is happening, myself included. When I read about what the Romney and Obama Campaigns we're doing in 2012 (especially the Obama Campaign) I felt like it was extremely manipulative stuff.

Regardless of whether you agree with the policies of Obama, it's hard not to see his campaign as one that cynically inferred how to push the buttons of the American people, in ways most of the American people will probably never even realize. See these articles in The New York Times and MIT Tech Review for some of the juicy details.

This got me thinking about political manipulation, and how I marvel at the genius and execution of it on the one hand, but bridle at the jaded opportunism of it on the other. So I thought, what will be the issues surrounding political manipulation in our not too distant future? How will the political heirs of the legacy of Obama 2012 manipulate people, say, in the 2030s and 2040s?

Thinking about this I had a very 12-year-old like idea: what if political operatives in the future use time travel to try to manipulate the way the American people vote? What if some people in the future so willing to manipulate everything that they travel back in time, and change everything around, just to cause political events to come out more to their liking?

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