Quid and Primer Founder Sean Gourley: If You Don’t Own the Algorithm, the Algorithm Owns You

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Posted on: April 21, 2018 / Last Modified: March 12, 2022

It was all the way back in 2013 when Sean Gourley published a blog post titled Prediction just is a parlor trick. Manipulation is much more interesting. In it he wrote:

The 2012 election will ultimately go down as the ‘prediction’ election (aka the Nate Silver election), 2016 may well be the first ‘persuasion’ election. An election where models accurately predict the likely outcomes of different strategic decisions for both parties in real-time. Where instead of trying to predict which voters will likely respond favorably to your existing message, you instead find voters that don’t like what you are saying and use targeted algorithms to create custom narratives that will change their voting preferences. But of course one side will only have this technology for so long — eventually, both sides will have this technology and we move into the world of competition between algorithms…”Given his incredible foresight and the recent revelations about Cambridge Analytica’s role for both the Brexit as well as the last presidential elections, I thought that Sean Gourley will be a great expert to interview on Singularity.FM.

During our 90 min conversation with Sean Gourley, we cover a variety of interesting topics such as his quest to understand the world we live in; big data, prediction, and persuasion; the mathematics of war; Quid and being able to see the unseeable things; Primer and accelerating our understanding of the world; teaching vs manipulation; Facebook, privacy, surveillance, democracy and free will.

As always you can listen to or download the audio file above or scroll down and watch the video interview in full. To show your support you can write a review on iTunesmake a direct donation, or become a patron on Patreon.

Who is Sean Gourley?

Sean Gourley is the founder and CEO of Primer. Previously, he was CTO of Quid, an augmented-intelligence company he co-founded in 2009. Prior to Quid, Gourley worked on self-repairing nano-circuits at NASA Ames. He holds a Ph.D. in physics from Oxford, where his research as a Rhodes Scholar focused on complex systems and the mathematical patterns underlying modern war. This research was published on the cover of Nature. He has served as a political advisor, briefed USCENTCOM at the Pentagon, and addressed the United Nations in Vienna. He is a two-time New Zealand track and field champion.

Gourley sits on the Knight Commission, serves on the Board of Directors at Anadarko (NYSE: APC), and is a TED Fellow.

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