Saturday, December 04, 2004

political informatics

data ring of fire

What our political universe is missing these days is a good data architect, someone who can develop an information schematic that reflects our polarized reality. The private sector knows how to link data sets, to mine all available information on consumers, markets, and transactions. For example, we all worry about those Diebold machines manipulating election outcomes. A real IT type would tell you that’s only one of their capabilities. They’re also terrific consumer data collection nodes. Everybody wants user demographics, and in politics, it’s Diebold that’s got ‘em.

How do we use this capability? My first suggestion is that we simply record every Kerry voter’s demographic profile and immediately download it to Homeland Security’s no-fly list. No more racial profiling, with its gross segmentation into ethnic cohorts (how very 20th Century). No more random selection (even more retro), or pulling everyone with a one-way ticket out of the line and into the shoe- and belt-holding contingent. If your video rentals tell us that you’re likely to buy a Volvo, surely your voting patterns will tell us if you’re likely to hijack a Boeing or not.

Blue-staters can plug into the new architecture, too. Michael Bérubé suggests a new social safety net, funded by Democrats,

... a fallback system for helping out everyone who gets devastated by Bush’s social and economic policies, every family without health care, every elderly citizen fleeced by Medicare “reform,” every gay man and lesb***n hounded by the Fell Legions of the Right-- as long as they voted for Kerry.

So there’s data link #2: Diebold --> BérubéNet. Next, how about cross-referencing a list of Republican voters with a list of subscribers to gay magazines, and using the output file to create on online discussion group on, say, cognitive dissonance? Or evangelical church members with Democratic voters, and sending each one a copy of “Profiles in Courage”?

Try some of your own. I was a data architect for years. It’s fun. Once you get the swing of it, you’ll start to find patterns and relationships you never knew existed. Some researchers say pattern recognition and relationship structuring are the foundation of intelligence. William Blake said that wise man find outlines, and therefore they are wise. (Later he said madmen find outlines, and therefore they are mad - but let's not change the subject.)

C'mon, political types - evolve from common sense to artificial intelligence. Give it a shot. Become a citizen in the new United States of Schematica: one nation, informational, with connectivity and access for all. Under God, of course.