Publications

Forthcoming
IF THEN: How the Simulmatics Corporation Invented the Future
Lepore, Jill. Forthcoming. IF THEN: How the Simulmatics Corporation Invented the Future. New York: Liveright. Book Abstract

A brilliant, revelatory account of the Cold War origins of the data-mad, algorithmic twenty-first century, from the author of the acclaimed international bestseller, These Truths.

 

The Simulmatics Corporation, founded in 1959, mined data, targeted voters, accelerated news, manipulated consumers, destabilized politics, and disordered knowledge--decades before Facebook, Google, Amazon, and Cambridge Analytica. Silicon Valley likes to imagine it has no past but the scientists of Simulmatics are the long-dead grandfathers of Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk. Borrowing from psychological warfare, they used computers to predict and direct human behavior, deploying their “People Machine” from New York, Cambridge, and Saigon for clients that included John Kennedy’s presidential campaign, the New York Times, Young & Rubicam, and, during the Vietnam War, the Department of Defense. Jill Lepore, distinguished Harvard historian and New Yorker staff writer, unearthed from the archives the almost unbelievable story of this long-vanished corporation, and of the women hidden behind it. In the 1950s and 1960s, Lepore argues, Simulmatics invented the future by building the machine in which the world now finds itself trapped and tormented, algorithm by algorithm.

 

“A person can't help but feel inspired by the riveting intelligence and joyful curiosity of Jill Lepore.  Knowing that there is a mind like hers in the world is a hope-inducing thing.”

            --George Saunders

 

“Everything Lepore writes is distinguished by intelligence, eloquence, and fresh insight. If Then is that, and even more: It’s absolutely fascinating, excavating a piece of little-known American corporate history that reveals a huge amount about the way we live today and the companies that define the modern era.”

 

            --Susan Orlean

 

“Data science, Jill Lepore reminds us in this brilliant book, has a past, and she tells it through the engrossing story of Simulmatics, the tiny, long-forgotten company that helped invent our data-obsessed world, in which prediction is seemingly the only knowledge that matters. A captivating, deeply incisive work.”

 

            —Frederik Logevall, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America’s Vietnam

 

“Think today’s tech giants invented data mining and market manipulation? Think again. In this page-turning, eye-opening history, Jill Lepore reveals the Cold War roots of the tech-saturated present, in a thrilling tale that moves from the campaigns of Eisenhower and Kennedy to ivied think tanks, Madison Avenue ad firms, and the hamlets of Vietnam. Told with verve, grace, and humanity, If Then is an essential, sobering story for understanding our times.”

           

—Margaret O’Mara, author of The Code: Silicon Valley and the Remaking of America

 

“It didn’t all start with Facebook. We have long been fascinated with the potential of using computing technology to predict human behavior. In another fast-paced narrative, Jill Lepore brilliantly uncovers the history of the Simulmatics Corp, which launched the volatile mix of computing, politics and personal behavior that now divides our nation, feeds on private information, and weakens the strength our democratic institutions. If you want to know where this all started, you need not look any further--read this book!”

— Julian Zelizer, author of Burning Down the House: Newt Gingrich, the Fall of a Speaker and the Rise of the New Republican Party 

 

Jill Lepore is the David Woods Kemper ’41 Professor of American History at Harvard University and is also a staff writer at The New Yorker. A two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist, her many books include the international bestseller, These Truths.

 

2020
Lepore, Jill. 2020. “Speed and American Elections.” Science 370 (6514). Article
Lepore, Jill. 2020. “October Surprise.” newyorker.com, October 6, 2020. Article
Lepore, Jill. 2020. “Let History, Not Partisans, Prosecute Trump.” Washington Post. Article
Lepore, Jill. 2020. “From Sea to Shining Sea.” America the Beautiful: A Story in Photographs, 17-21. Washington, DC: National Geographic. Book
Lepore, Jill. 2020. “Ruth Bader Ginsburg: The Great Equalizer.” newyorker.com, September 18, 2020. Article
Lepore, Jill. 2020. “Scientists Use Big Data to Sway Elections and Predict Riots: Welcome to the 1960s.” Nature 585 (September 16, 2020): 348-350. Article
Lepore, Jill. 2020. “These Four Walls: Living Indoors.” The New Yorker, September 7, 2020. Article
Lepore, Jill. 2020. “All the King's Data: Simulation, automation, and the election of John F. Kennedy.” The New Yorker, August 3, 2020. Article
Lepore, Jill. 2020. “The Long Blue Line: Inventing the Police.” The New Yorker, July 13, 2020. Article
Lepore, Jill. 2020. “Blood on the Green: Kent State and the war that never ended.” The New Yorker, May 4, 2020. article
Lepore, Jill. 2020. “The National Emergency Library is a Gift to Readers Everywhere.” newyorker.com, March 26, 2020. Article
Lepore, Jill. 2020. “The Isolation Ward: On loneliness.” The New Yorker, April 6, 2020. Article
Lepore, Jill. 2020. “Don't Come Any Closer: What's at stake in our fables of contagion?” The New Yorker, March 30, 2020. Article
Lepore, Jill. 2020. “But Who's Counting? The coming census.” The New Yorker, March 23, 2020. article
Lepore, Jill. 2020. “In Every Dark Hour.” The New Yorker, February 3, 2020. Article
2019
Lepore, Jill. 2019. “You're Fired: A short account of the long history of impeachment.” The New Yorker, October 28, 2019. Article
Lepore, Jill. 2019. “Know it All: Edward Snowden and the rise of whistle-blowing.” The New Yorker, September 23, 2019.
Lepore, Jill. 2019. “Taking History Personally.” Times Literary Supplement.

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