Christopher Wylie, the former Cambridge Analytica employee, who blew the cover on what the group was upto, is a very original thinker. In this remarkable interview with the FT, the Canadian – who dropped out of school, then taught himself to write code and then studied law at the London School of Economics – talks about: (a) how the modern tech companies are exploiting our personal data and given others the ability to “weaponise” our personal data; and (b) the links between popular culture, fashion and politics. Key quotes from a refreshingly original interview:

“I think a lot of regulators and legislators are realising that the argument that we should have development without any rules and regulations, just for the sake of innovating, can go terribly wrong. When you have data and algorithms being weaponised and being used against a population, to undermine their very perception of what’s real, the impact of that is Donald Trump, or Brexit, or the rapid expansion of the alt-right and neo-Nazis. Our products, in my view, are weapons of mass destruction. And that has been facilitated, in many cases knowingly, by companies like Facebook…We are trading our democracy for ad optimisation. I don’t agree with that trade-off.”

“The first discussion I had with Steve Bannon, we ended up talking about fashion, because he was asking “How do you create cultural change?” He thinks about what he’s doing as a cultural war. And when you look at weapons, weapons have two fundamental aspects. You’ve got a payload and you’ve got a targeting system. The payload in cultural warfare are narratives, and the targeting systems are algorithms. And that war is fought, at the moment, in the domain of cyberspace. Fashion and politics are the same industry. in many regards, because it’s about identity, and it’s cyclical, and people get really emotive about it. In psychology they call it an affective response, where you have a gut response. Fashion affects you.”

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