Sunday, 1 October 2017

How would you hack an election?

If I wanted to win an election how would I do it?

In areas where there is no voter id what I need first is a list of past voting records. I need to know who doesn't vote. I need this because I am going to vote for them and I don't want any of them turning up by accident. People who are on the register but cannot vote because they are dead or incapacitated look like great candidates as well BUT these are too easy to check so actually I want to avoid this or someone might detect my fraud quite easily.

Once I have a lost of non-voters who are on the roll and alive and who could vote but never do what do I do next? I go to the polling station on their behalf and vote for them. Remember that they never vote and they are likely not to be recognised. I need to do this in small numbers at all of the polling stations. The more stations the better to spread the load and hide what I am doing. I don't want to do more than 50-100 votes in each of the stations. This means that my voting team needs to be at a maximum of 100 people. I do not want to have the same person voting at a station twice. These teams then move from station to station over the day. I can also do postal votes and absentee votes and these help. This is a big logistical operation but I don't care if I win the prize and control the government. You are talking thousands of operatives but they will target only a few key areas which can be flipped. Only marginals matter.

This is certainly possible for the swing states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin etc. if I have Russian man-power available but I would need a forward base and a long term plan to get the people in place over time. Combine this with analytics, targeted media a big fake news operation and you can win the election.

How would you recognise this in the results? Can it be detected? The only thing that you see is a higher than expected turnout, unexpected demographic shifts and a high turnout from previous non-voters. But all of this is plausible deniability. There is not way an audit can say that this fraud exists unless you corroborate all of the suspicious votes. This is the perfect undetectable hack. Oddly enough Trump and Brexit both depended on previous non-voters.

Is it just me or does seasonal flu not make sense?

The NHS are warning that the UK is going to have a bad flu season this winter because there has been a bad flu season in the southern hemisphere this year.

But maybe they got a bad season this year because we got a bad season last year. Surely if this bad season alternates between northern and southern hemispheres one affecting the other then once a bad season starts all seasons have to be bad after that.

What is more puzzling is how is their bad season going to become our bad season? If it is being spread by air travel then why didn't we have a bad summer flu season? Why does it only kick off in our winter after their winter and flu season is over. The idea was that we get more flu and colds in winter because we spend more time in doors passing it to one another in the winter. I agree in an agrarian society where behaviour changes with seasons but I spend as much time in my office in the summer as I do in the winter. That is apart from the summer vacation but if I went to New Zealand won't I bring back the flu?

A big factor in my job and exposure is schools. The new school term brings colds and flu. Now we have much shorter summer holidays for schools in the UK we should see longer flu seasons if this is part of the cause for flu being seasonal. Seasonal flu is reality but our models as to why it is seasonal don't fit very well. We need to get some better models as to why it is seasonal and how it spreads between hemispheres.

Humidity and temperature have been shown to have effects but I suspect that there are more factors to take into account and imagining how flu seasons spread between hemispheres is another factor to consider.

How not to develop analytic talent

I wrote a review of the book Developing Analytic Talent by Vincent Granville and gave it a good bashing. But I could not do it justice to the total incompetence. Vincent Granville PhD is a perfect example of a snake-oil salesman. He speaks about his papers, his experience and the investment he has attracted, he talks about his books but a quick Google of his name just turns up a website which he set-up and which engages in some shady practices, including him writing articles pretending to be other authors, especially women in order to make it appear more gender neutral.

The review could not capture the many gems within the book so here are some of his best bits of writing.
Compound metrics are to base metrics what molecules are to atoms. Just like as few as seven atoms (oxygen, hydrogen, helium, carbon, sodium, chlorine and sulfur) can produce trillions of trillions of molecules and chemical compounds (a challenge for analytical and computational chemists designing molecules to cure cancer), the same combinatorial explosion takes place as you move from base to compound metrics. 

Very nice but Helium is a noble gas and does not form compounds on Earth although it might do in special environments.  His PhD is not in chemistry

Apparently he also thinks that an app for pricing in amusement parks would be a good venture
Increase prices  and find optimum prices. (Obviously, it must be higher than current prices due to the extremely large and dense crowds visiting these parks, creating huge waiting lines and other hazards everywhere - from the few restaurants and bathrooms to the attractions).

Alternatively they could build more bathrooms and more restaurants and make even more money from the large crowds rather than reducing foot-fall as people go elsewhere. Who are richer the owners of WallMart or the owners of Tiffany's? 

This however is the best and saved for page 174

The number of variables is assumed to be high, and the independent variables are highly correlated.
What? Wait let me see what the definition of independent variables is. That would be whose variation does NOT depend on the variation of another. That would mean not correlated. This is more than a slight howler this is so elementary that you cannot believe a single thing the author says. He then goes on to do regression in Excel.

On page 189 he talks about the possibility of getting negative variances - this is impossible. On page 190 he talks about the variance being bounded by 1 as a maximum. This is nonsense even with normalised data the variance = 1 V is not <1 as="" he="" nbsp="" p="" states.="">