After #Election2015: How can we save Big Data?

My plan to upgrade Nate Silver to make him golden

¡Bong! Special The Skype window crackled into life, beaming a little piece of Manhattan live into my Shoreditch loft workspace.

The ceiling, I could see, was decorated with empty vodka bottles and men’s underwear. A woodcutter’s axe, a signed souvenir from Marcus Mumford, formed the centrepiece, buried ironically into an upside down 6-core dual GPU Apple Mac Pro Tower.

“Very cool,” I told my assistant มาลัย (which means "Garland of Flowers" in Thai). “I thought Mid-town was years behind Hoxton’s design aesthetics, but perhaps they’re catching up?”

The top of a stubbly bald head veered into view.

“I love your apartment’s decor, Nate,” I said by way of gentle introduction.

“Uh, wait Steve, wait,” replied the voice... and the picture in my Skype window rotated 180 degrees.


The Mumford axe wasn’t ironically placed at all. Neither was the Prowler underwear. It was the day after the most sensational General Election in British history. And the man the BBC called The Lord and God of Algorithms, the magical nerd, the rockstar statistician – the man the FT called Big Data’s Biggest Figure – had had a very rough night indeed. His floor was a mess and the Mac Pro wouldn’t be reaching Turbo Boost speeds of 3.9Ghz anytime soon. If at all, ever.

Silver was the wonder boy who had amassed a fortune thanks to his statistical chops, picking Oscar winners and sports results. He was the guru who had never ever got an election prediction wrong – except for all the ones he had. The scene was one of chaos and despair.

For we all know what happened that Thursday night three weeks ago.

Somewhere, under a rainbow

In his Yorkshire constituency, Comrade Miliband was waiting for a taxi to take him to the Finland Station. Like almost everyone in the Westminster village, thousands in the media and thousands more key social influencers, Ted was feeling nervous but confident. He was fairly sure he'd soon be leading a Government of socialist unity with Ms Sturgeon, the charismatic Scottish Peronist. Together with the Green Party and Russell Brand’s popular young people’s revolutionary movement, TREWSERS, they would create a rainbow alliance in which every colour was grey.

200 miles to the south, Rupert Murdoch, the ruthless tycoon who controlled almost every British TV and radio station and every British newspaper except The Guardian, also had his bags packed... preparing to evacuate. Word reached me from Sky’s Osterley HQ that the scene resembled the wait for the last helicopter out of Saigon.

But unknown to either Miliband or Murdoch, after I made my 11th hour plea to voters, pollsters had begun to detect a surge. A powerful, digital surge.

Next page: Bullet in the Ed

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