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Publisher's Summary

A brilliant, revelatory account of the Cold War origins of the data-mad, algorithmic 21st century, from the author of the acclaimed international best seller 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 that 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 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.

©2020 Jill Lepore (P)2020 Recorded Books

What listeners say about If Then

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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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?

Jill Lepore is one of the best writers on history out there today which makes this bizarre narration a real bummer. She mumbles words, reads too fast and does this completely unlistenable, sock puppet level impressions of seemingly anything and everything in quotes- and these aren't impressions of famous people, these are impressions of long dead anonymous political analysts that no one has ever heard speak, including, I'm assuming, the author. What a weird choice. Was anyone producing this?

6 people found this helpful

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Nearly Unlistenable

An author does not make one a narrator. They’re not adding additional commentary or footnotes so why not have a professional read it?

The narration is fast. Yes, annoying but the reading of the quotes in the text—and there are many—rip one out of the story with their terrible performance, best characterized as a mix of poor impressions of a carnival barker and transatlantic newsman. They’re cringey and painful and so off in tone from the serious text that they endlessly distract from the story.

Not that the story is much to miss. It reads like a government report: a dry and unexamining series of chronological events on a company that really hardly mattered. Overall this is a magazine feature stretched transparently thin into a book I very nearly gave up on.

4 people found this helpful

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About her voice.

I love her ideas and I love her enthusiasm. She brings what some would consider trivialities of American history and brings them to life and explains to you whether or not trivial at all. And. I. Love. Her. I would rather hear this author's voice than an actor with some slick production values added post-production. Lepore's voice adds to the honesty and genuine nature of her work. I don't review Audible often, but I read some of the reviews saying blistering, and I think misguided things about Jill lepore's voice and I had to weigh in. I would be first in line to register for her classes.

3 people found this helpful

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exceptional

With the author as the narrator, the book is extremely rich. The content is incredibly well researched, and the recording adds personality to it. Highly recommend!

2 people found this helpful

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Read too fast and too mumble Bad reading for such a good book

too bad. Hard to listen what she read,
Bad reading for such a good book

1 person found this helpful

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Lapore finds back story to history...again

Ms Lapore is so eager to tell us her terrific story that she rushes her narration so fast it sometimes is not understandable. This book could have really used a professional to read it.

1 person found this helpful

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Eye opening and caution ahead on how we build the Exponential Age

Im in the AI and Data Science consulting space and have seen these behaviors and business models upfront. Im constantly advising clients to leverage AI and Data with Ethical, Emotional and Economical intelligence in equal parts. Thank you, Jill for providing more context for my work - its clear we have a long road ahead in ensuring humanism leads the way.

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A strong story ruined by performance

As others have said, the story is good but the performance is just terrible. It’s a story interwoven through popular history, about a company that (depending on who you ask) may have been at the heart of some of the biggest events of the 1960s. It’s a story most people won’t be familiar with. But it’s not a story that should be read by this narrator.

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Enthusiastically recommend

Enthralling story and very informative. the book is beautifully narrated. Even my kids love to listen.

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Do not buy the audiobook!

Terrible way of reading the book. I listen a lot of books a year (35+) and this is one of the worst. Very hard to follow and changes in voices confused me a lot. Only talks about politics, which I dislike