Monday, November 12, 2012

Everything Old is New Again, Ctd.

This is Nate Silver.

He correctly predicted the outcome of the 2012 election using some wizardry called "statistics" that lots of pundits refused to believe.

This is Univac.

Sixty years ago, Univac correctly predicted the outcome of the 1952 election using some wizardry  called "statistics" that lots of pundits refused to believe.

From Wired:

Nov. 4, 1952: Univac Gets Election Right, But CBS Balks

The Univac in Philadelphia was connected to a teletype machine at the CBS studios in New York City. As the first precincts reported on election night, technicians used Unityper machines to encode the data onto paper tape to feed into Univac. Pre-election polls had predicted anything from a Democratic landslide to a tigh

t race with the Demo candidate, Illinois Gov. Adlai Stevenson, slightly ahead of the Republican, five-star Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe in World War II.

So it was a surprise at 8:30 p.m. Eastern time when Univac predicted Eisenhower would pile up 438 electoral votes to Stevenson's 93. The odds of Eisenhower garnering at least 266 electoral votes — the minimum needed to win — were 100-1. In New York, news boss Mickelson scoffed at putting the improbable prediction on air. In Philadelphia, Woodbury added new data to the mix. At 9 p.m. correspondent Charles Collingwood announced to the audience that Univac was predicting 8-7 odds for an Eisenhower win.

But wait! Back in Philly, Woodbury discovered that he'd mistakenly added a zero to Stevenson's totals from New York state. When he entered the correct data and ran it through Univac, he got the same prediction as before: Ike 438, Adlai 93, again with 100-1 chances of an Eisenhower victory.

As the evening wore on, an Eisenhower landslide gathered momentum. The final vote was 442 to 89. Univac was less than 1 percent off.

Late at night, Collingwood made an embarrassing confession to millions of viewers: Univac had made an accurate prediction hours before, but CBS hadn't aired it.

This is Issac Asimov.

In 1955, Mr. Asimov wrote a science fiction story called "Franchise" about the future outcome of the 2008 presidential election (from Wikipedia):

In the future, the United States has converted to an "electronic democracy" where the computer Multivac selects a single person to answer a number of questions. Multivac will then use the answers and other data to determine what the results of an election would be, avoiding the need for an actual election to be held.

The story centers around Norman Muller, the man chosen as "Voter of the Year" in 2008. Although the law requires him to accept the dubious honour, he is not sure that he wants the responsibility of representing the entire electorate, worrying that the result will be unfavorable and he will be blamed.

"Escapist literature" my shiny metal ass.


blackdaug said...

Hari Seldon had Obama in a landslide...

RossK said...

Personally, I'm surprised that some whack-a-doodle dandyish congress critter hasn't already introduced an omnibus bill banning both algorithms and Jolly Rancher-based poli-maps...


Bukko Canukko said...

IIRC, H.L. Mencken -- the Charles Pierce of Baltimore, with 50% more wicked humour -- once wrote an essay about how American governance wold be better if members of Congress were chosen at random from phone book listings.There's a word for that: "sortition." Unfortunately, I can't find Mencken's essay after a bit of Oogling, so maybe my "memory" is false. But the more I read of Mencken, the better and more prescient he sounds.

blackdaug said...

Oddly timed things from my inbox:

jorb good said...

You stifle, Bender. Man should not go consorting with robots. Every American should be shown Electrogonorrhea: the noisy killer.

Mentioner said...

@Bukko, I've felt for a long time that the best solution would be a draft, not unlike the system you suggested (or HL suggested). This draft would be even more awesome for closed collectives like police. Serve six years, yer out. Every one gets a chance to win! Yay, winning!

TheCunningRunt said...

Thanks to Scarborough's final word in that clip, he is now and forever in my mind, "Morning Joke." Thank you, Joke.

And BTW, I hold Mr. Asimov in the same rarified esteem in which I hold Mr. Bradbury, which is saying a lot!