Technology

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
Boyd, Dana. 2020. “We Don't Want to Fix the Program.” Public Books. Article
Lepore, Jill. 2020. “Countdown.” The New Yorker, November 1, 2020. Article
Lepore, Jill. 2020. “Speed and American Elections.” Science 370 (6514). 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 National Emergency Library is a Gift to Readers Everywhere.” newyorker.com, March 26, 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. “Know it All: Edward Snowden and the rise of whistle-blowing.” The New Yorker, September 23, 2019.
Lepore, Jill. 2019. “One Small Step.” The New York Times Book Review. Article
Lepore, Jill. 2019. “The Robot Caravan: automation, A.I., and the coming invasion.” The New Yorker, March 4, 2019. Article
Lepore, Jill. 2019. “Hard News: the state of journalism.” The New Yorker, January 28, 2019. Article
Lepore, Jill. 2019. “Unforeseen: What 2018 Looked Like Fifty Years Ago.” The New Yorker, January 7, 2019. Article
2018
Lepore, Jill. 2018. “The Hacking of America.” The New York Times. Article
2018. “The Attack on Democracy.” Morning Edition. NPR, Sep 12 2018. Audio
These Truths: A History of the United States
Lepore, Jill. 2018. These Truths: A History of the United States. New York: Norton. Website Abstract

In the most ambitious, one-volume American history in decades, award-winning historian Jill Lepore offers a magisterial account of the origins and rise of a divided nation.

The American experiment rests on three ideas—“these truths,” Jefferson called them—political equality, natural rights, and the sovereignty of the people. And it rests, too, on a fearless dedication to inquiry, writes Jill Lepore in a groundbreaking investigation into the American past that places truth itself at the center of the nation’s history. In riveting prose, These Truths tells the story of America, beginning in 1492, to ask whether the course of events has proven the nation’s founding truths, or belied them. “A nation born in contradiction, liberty in a land of slavery, will fight forever over the meaning of its history,” Lepore writes, finding meaning in those very contradictions as she weaves American history into a majestic tapestry of faith and hope, of peril and prosperity, of technological progress and moral anguish. Part spellbinding chronicle, part old-fashioned civics book, These Truths, filled with arresting sketches of Americans from John Winthrop and Frederick Douglass to Pauli Murray and Phyllis Schlafly, offers an authoritative new history of a great, and greatly troubled, nation.

 

Praise for These Truths

“[B]rilliant…insightful…It isn’t until you start reading it that you realize how much we need a book like this one at this particular moment.”

—Andrew Sullivan, The New York Times Book Review

 

“This sweeping, sobering account of the American past is a story not of relentless progress but of conflict and contradiction, with crosscurrents of reason and faith, black and white, immigrant and native, industry and agriculture rippling through a narrative that is far from completion.”

The New York Times Book Review, Editors’ Choice

 

“[Lepore’s] one-volume history is elegant, readable, sobering; it extends a steadying hand when a breakneck news cycle lurches from one event to another, confounding minds and churning stomachs.”

—Jennifer Szalai, The New York Times

 

 

“Jill Lepore is an extraordinarily gifted writer, and These Truths is nothing short of a masterpiece of American history. By engaging with our country's painful past (and present) in an intellectually honest way, she has created a book that truly does encapsulate the American story in all its pain and all its triumph.”

–Michael Schaub, NPR 

 

“A splendid rendering—filled with triumph, tragedy, and hope—that will please Lepore’s readers immensely and win her many new ones.”

Kirkus Reviews, starred review

 

 

“This thought-provoking and fascinating book stands to become the definitive one-volume U.S. history for a new generation.”

Library Journal, starred review

 

 

“An ambitious and provocative attempt to interpret American history as an effort to fulfill and maintain certain fundamental principles. . . . Lepore is a historian with wide popular appeal, and this comprehensive work will answer readers’ questions about who we are as a nation.”

Booklist, starred review

 

 

“Astounding… [Lepore] has assembled evidence of an America that was better than some thought, worse than almost anyone imagined, and weirder than most serious history books ever convey. Armed with the facts of what happened before, we are better able to approach our collective task of figuring out what should happen now . . . Perhaps instead of the next U2 album, Apple could make a copy of These Truths appear on every iPhone—not only because it offers the basic civics education that every American needs, but because it is a welcome corrective to the corrosive histories peddled by partisans.”

—Casey N. Cep, Harvard Magazine

 

 

“In her epic new work, Jill Lepore helps us learn from whence we came.”

Oprah Magazine

 

 

“Sweeping and propulsive.”

Vulture

 

“ ‘An old-fashioned civics book,’ Harvard historian and New Yorker contributor Jill Lepore calls it, a glint in her eye. This fat, ludicrously ambitious one-volume history is a lot more than that. In its spirit of inquiry, in its eager iconoclasms, These Truths enacts the founding ideals of the country it describes.

Huffington Post

 

 

“It's an audacious undertaking to write a readable history of America, and Jill Lepore is more than up to the task. But These Truths is also an astute exploration of the ways in which the country is living up to its potential, and where it is not.”

Business Insider

 

 

“Gutsy, lyrical, and expressive… [These Truths] is a perceptive and necessary contribution to understanding the American condition of late.… It captures the fullness of the past, where hope rises out of despair, renewal out of destruction, and forward momentum out of setbacks.”

—Jack E. Davis, Chicago Tribune

 

“Lepore’s brilliant book, These Truths, rings as clear as a church bell, the lucid, welcome yield of clear thinking and a capable, curious mind.”

—Karen R. Long, Newsday

 

A splendid rendering—filled with triumph, tragedy, and hope—that will please Lepore’s readers immensely and win her many new ones.”

Kirkus Reviews, starred review

 

“An ambitious and provocative attempt to interpret American history as an effort to fulfull and maintain certain fundamental principles . . . Lepore is a historian with wide popular appeal, and this comprehensive work will answer readers’ questions about who we are as a nation.”

Booklist, starred review

 

“In this time of disillusionment with American politics, Jill Lepore’s beautifully written book should be essential reading for everyone who cares about the country’s future. Her history of the United States reminds us of the dilemmas that have plagued the country and the institutional strengths that have allowed us to survive as a republic for over two centuries. At a minimum, her book should be required reading for every federal officeholder.”

—Robert Dallek, author of Franklin D. Roosevelt

 

"No one has written with more passion and brilliance about how a flawed and combustible America kept itself tethered to the transcendent ideals on which it was founded. If the country is to recover from its current crisis, These Truths will illuminate the way."

—Gary Gerstle, author of Liberty and Coercion

 

“Who can write a comprehensive yet lucid history of the sprawling United States in a single volume? Only Jill Lepore has the verve, wit, range, and insights to pull off this daring and provocative book. Interweaving many lively biographies, These Truths illuminates the origins of the passions and causes, which still inspire and divide Americans in an age that needs all the truth we can find.”

—Alan Taylor, author of American Revolutions

 

“Lepore brings a scholar's comprehensive rigor and a poet's lyrical precision to this singular single-volume history of the United States. Understanding America's past, as she demonstrates, has always been a central American project. She knows that the "story of America" is as plural and mutable as the nation itself, and the result is a work of prismatic richness, one that rewards not just reading but rereading. This will be an instant classic.”

—Kwame Anthony Appiah, author of The Lies that Bind

 

“Anyone interested in the future of the Republic must read this book. One of our greatest historians succeeds, where so many have failed, to make sense of the whole canvas of our history. Without ignoring the horrors of conquest, slavery or recurring prejudices, she manages nonetheless to capture the epic quality of the American past. With passion, compassion, wit, and remarkable insight, Lepore brings it all to life, the good, the bad, the beautiful and the ugly. This is a manifesto for our necessarily shared future.”

—Lynn Hunt, author of History: Why it Matters

 

“In this inspiring and enlightening book, Jill Lepore accomplishes the grand task of telling us what we need to know about our past in order to be good citizens today. Avoiding political and ideological agendas, she confronts the contradictions that come from being born a land of both liberty and slavery, but she uses such conflicts to find meaning—and hope—in the tale of America’s progress.”

—Walter Isaacson, University Professor of History, Tulane, author of The Innovators

 

"Lepore is a truly gifted writer with profound insight."

-Spectator

 

"This vivid history brings alive the contradictions and hypocrisies of the land of the free"

- David Aaronovitch, The Times



"A history for the 21st century, far more inclusive than the standard histories of the past"

- Guardian


"Monumental ... a crucial work for presenting a fresh and clear-sighted narrative of the entire story ... exciting and page-turningly fascinating, in one of those rare history books that can be read with pleasure for its sheer narrative energy"

- Simon Winchester, New Statesman



"Jill Lepore is that rare combination in modern life of intellect, originality and style"

- Amanda Foreman, TLS

 

 

 

 

2016
Lepore, Jill. 2016. “The Problem With Polls Isn't Technical, It's Political.” Nieman Reports, Nov 16 2016. Article

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