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Editorial: Where the Numbers Lie

“It seems odd to me,” said someone at a restaurant table the other night, her dinner plates being cleared, “that after so many thousands of years of human development and so much technology, we’ve never figured out a way to automate this experience. This seems so primitive to me, people waiting on us, like a throwback to servitude.”

Will fine dining be as special an experience when robots are clearing our plates? It will likely be a popular novelty at Disney World, and automated servers would certainly be better trained ones, but there are some experiences that are intended to be human ones, that are, at their core, relationship based.

A new book by journalists Arnie Parnes and Jon Allen offers an explanation for how Donald Trump became president, and the early press for the book – as well as the title, “Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign” – tells us that it was all Hillary’s fault.

One of the explanations the authors offered in an interview with Chris Cillizza on the CNN Politics website, in addition to her odd choice to store her emails on a private server and to give paid speeches on Wall Street, included, “the over reliance on data at the expense of traditional political persuasion – a “Moneyball”-esque dynamic that our sources talked about in detail. She was fighting the last war.”

In 2008, Hillary was outsmarted by an Obama campaign that seized the opportunity offered by social media and analytics to out-organize Hillary. Parnes and Allen are suggesting that Hillary corrected her ‘08 mistakes for the 2016 campaign instead of innovating for the requirements of the moment. It was Donald Trump who was operating in real time, who sensed what a critical segment of the electorate was feeling and crafted a message that, once again, left Hillary outsmarted and on the sidelines.

There is evidence, though, that technology may win out in the end. A headline in the New York Post this week read, “New York teens are too busy playing video games to have sex.” It’s true – or, at least, that’s what the data show. For the past 20 years, the Centers for Disease Control in Washington has surveyed high school seniors to learn what percentage have had sex. In 2015, that number was down to 27.2% in New York City, a drop of four tenths of a percent over the prior two years, and a record low since the survey began in 1997.

If this trend holds, there won’t be anyone available to cook dinner, let alone serve it. Perhaps the “Automat” will finally have its day.

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