Data Mining for Political Elections, and Isaac Asimov

Using Data Mining, Data Science and Big Data is cool in political elections, and in political decision-making. Well, not sure if cool, but it is a trending topic in Data Science in the latest years.

Here are some examples:

From the research point of view, you can check for instance how Twitter information is used in political campaigns in this Twitter and the Real World CIKM'13 Tutorial by Ingmar Weber and by Yelena Mejova. There is an interesting list of references on several ways of using Twitter to predict user political orientation, general public trends, and other. On the opposite side, you can find an interesting paper which provides sound criticism on some of the research performed on Twitter and politics: "I Wanted to Predict Elections with Twitter and all I got was this Lousy Paper": A Balanced Survey on Election Prediction using Twitter Data, by Daniel Gayo-Avello.

Anyway, it should be clear from multiple points of view that governments (e.g. the NSA PRISM case) and politicians are collecting and using citizen data in order to predict their tastes and to guide their decisions and actions in political campaigns.

I will avoid the privacy discussion here, as I want the case for something different. My case is: Hey, if they can predict elections results, then why voting?

But my blog is not a political one; it should be a technical one - or at least, a technically-focused blogger one. And as many computer geeks, I am a scifi fan. And as one of the biggest authors is Isaac Asimov, I have read a lot by him.

What has to do Asimov with data mining in politics? Well, he predicted it .

More precisely, he predicted how elections may evolve in the Era of Big Data . And he answered my question. You will not vote .

Asimov used to publish short stories in scifi magazines (as many others, I know). In August 1955, he published a short story titled " Franchise " in the magazine "If: Worlds of Science Fiction". I read that story many years later, re-printed in one of his short stores collection books. I was young, and I liked the story, but not too much - there were others more appealing to my taste in the volume. However, I have revisited it recently, and under the light of my technical background, things have changed.

That is real scifi. He technically predicted the future. And it is happening.

The plot is simple; just let me quote the Wikipedia article:

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.

As the Big Data platform (the computer Multivac in the story) gets to know more and more about the citizens, it will need less and less to accurately predict election results. The problem is reduced to just making a list of (quite Sentiment Analysis related) questions to a single citizen selected as being representative for answering those questions, in order to refine some details, and that's it.

Do not blame him, nor me. It is just happening.

As always, thanks for reading, and please feel free to leave a comment if you think I can improve this article, or you have questions or suggestions for further articles on these topics!

Update 1: Yet another example: Twitter hashtags predict rising tension in Egypt.