One of the well-known secrets of the Donald Trump successful campaign is the extensive use of modern technology for voter analysis, media communication and fund-raising and campaign management.
Much like a Silicon Valley start-up, the Donald Trump promotion machine was created in a couple of weeks and was built for low-cost and rapid change. It is estimated the Hillary Clinton crew spent twice the amount for her campaign than Donald Trump. Robert Mercer, the Hedge-Fund Tycoon and co- C.E.O of Renaissance Technologies (ref New Yorker background paper) Hedge Fund, was the key „technology provider“ and a major money provider to Donald Trump’s campaign. To my knowledge Robert Mercer is the only scientist who made his fortune based on mathematics. The key theory for statistical analysis of financial data was developed by the polish-born, french mathematician and „fractalist“ Benoit Mandelbrot.
I met Benoit Mandelbrot in 1978 when I was programming graphic applications for the 801 RISC system at the IBM Research Center, Yorktown Heights using my graphic application system (developed at the IBM Lab in Germany) . In 1978 high-resolution graphic workstations and adequate programs were rare even at IBM. From time to time an elderly scientist would show up and ask very politely whether I could display and print some data he had generated. He never forgot to say thank you when the work was finished. At that time the subject of his research seemed to be not important to the fellow scientists and the IBM management. Benoit Mandelbrot was hired by IBM because his work was related to the forecast of stock prizes. Eugene F. Fama Published his PhD Thesis The Behavior of Stock Market Prices in 1964. E.F. Fama received the Nobel Prize in 2013. Poor Benoit Mandelbrot did not get a Nobel Prize. The work of Mandelbrot and Fama established the application of statistical methods to the analysis of business data. The lack of powerful computers limited their work.
Robert Mercer worked at the IBM Research Lab in Yorktown Heights, N.Y. at the same time in the speech recognition team introducing statistical methods to speech recognition. Scientist had access to powerful computers, which allow the analysis of large amounts of data. In 1993 Robert Mercer was hired by Renaissance Technologies, where he applied the techniques used for speech recognition to the analysis and prediction of stock prizes and made a fortune. The Medallion Fund with assets worth $65 billion is managed by computer algorithms (quantitative trading) and mostly owned by the employees of Renaissance Technologies. It is considered to be the most successful fund with a positive track record of 20 years. Math pays off.
Key to the successful campaign of Donald Trump was not money but the technology people supporting the campaign. Robert Mercer provided a people pool from his company Cambridge Analytica to support the campaign. It is questionable how much impact the products of Cambridge Analytica had on the outcome. For sure the high-tech people did. Today it is not so important how much money is spent on a campaign but how many High-Techs in marketing, media, big data analysis and IT operation can be recruited for the campaign team in a short time. A very good social network is required. Certainly it helps if you have money to spend.
Motivated probably by his daughter, Robert Mercer applies his winning skills to politics and management of a country – an interesting experiment.
Reporters are wondering about the motivation of Robert Mercer. My guess it is his dedication to winning. In the Research Lab he had to outsmart his fellow scientists and to win the attention of the scientific world. He applied this skills to the financial world, but also to sailing ( much like Oracle Boss Larry Ellison) or poker. Whatever he does – he wants to win. In contrast politicians, like Hillary Clinton, have a long loser record. It takes a long time and endless compromising to get to the top.
PS The three mathematicians were 1st or 2nd generation immigrants from Poland, Italy and Canada!