Outsourcing our Thinking to Algorithms and Those Who Engineered Them

...even as an algorithm mindlessly implements its procedures – and even as it learns to see new patterns in the data – it reflects the minds of its creators, the motives of its trainers. Amazon and Netflix use algorithms to make recommendations about books and films. (One-third of purchases on Amazon come from these recommendations.) These algorithms seek to understand our tastes, and the tastes of like-minded consumers of culture. Yet the algorithms make fundamentally different recommendations. Amazon steers you to the sorts of books that you’ve seen before. Netflix directs users to the unfamiliar. There’s a business reason for this difference. Blockbuster movies cost Netflix more to stream. Greater profit arrives when you decide to watch more obscure fare. Computer scientists have an aphorism that describes how algorithms relentlessly hunt for patterns: they talk about torturing the data until it confesses. Yet this metaphor contains unexamined implications. Data, like victims of torture, tells its interrogator what it wants to hear.

[...]

Algorithms can be gorgeous expressions of logical thinking, not to mention a source of ease and wonder. They can track down copies of obscure 19th-century tomes in a few milliseconds; they put us in touch with long-lost elementary school friends; they enable retailers to deliver packages to our doors in a flash. Very soon, they will guide self-driving cars and pinpoint cancers growing in our innards. But to do all these things, algorithms are constantly taking our measure. They make decisions about us and on our behalf. The problem is that when we outsource thinking to machines, we are really outsourcing thinking to the organisations that run the machines.

Notes:

Folksonomies: society information technology

Taxonomies:
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/art and entertainment/movies and tv/movies (0.453770)
/technology and computing/consumer electronics/tv and video equipment/video players and recorders/blu-ray players and recorders (0.444703)

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Concepts:
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Computer (0.870442): dbpedia_resource
Algorithm (0.834298): dbpedia_resource
Thought (0.699228): dbpedia_resource
Reasoning (0.699029): dbpedia_resource
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Torture (0.682782): dbpedia_resource
Critical thinking (0.679293): dbpedia_resource

 Facebook’s war on free will
Periodicals>Newspaper Article:  Foer, Franklin (19 September 2017), Facebook’s war on free will, Retrieved on 2017-09-22
  • Source Material [www.theguardian.com]
  • Folksonomies: computer science algorithms