Algorithms are Subjective/Creative Things

he algorithm may be the essence of computer science – but it’s not precisely a scientific concept. An algorithm is a system, like plumbing or a military chain of command. It takes knowhow, calculation and creativity to make a system work properly. But some systems, like some armies, are much more reliable than others. A system is a human artefact, not a mathematical truism. The origins of the algorithm are unmistakably human, but human fallibility isn’t a quality that we associate with it. When algorithms reject a loan application or set the price for an airline flight, they seem impersonal and unbending. The algorithm is supposed to be devoid of bias, intuition, emotion or forgiveness.

Silicon Valley’s algorithmic enthusiasts were immodest about describing the revolutionary potential of their objects of affection. Algorithms were always interesting and valuable, but advances in computing made them infinitely more powerful. The big change was the cost of computing: it collapsed, just as the machines themselves sped up and were tied into a global network. Computers could stockpile massive piles of unsorted data – and algorithms could attack this data to find patterns and connections that would escape human analysts. In the hands of Google and Facebook, these algorithms grew ever more powerful. As they went about their searches, they accumulated more and more data. Their machines assimilated all the lessons of past searches, using these learnings to more precisely deliver the desired results.

For the entirety of human existence, the creation of knowledge was a slog of trial and error. Humans would dream up theories of how the world worked, then would examine the evidence to see whether their hypotheses survived or crashed upon their exposure to reality. Algorithms upend the scientific method – the patterns emerge from the data, from correlations, unguided by hypotheses. They remove humans from the whole process of inquiry. Writing in Wired, Chris Anderson, then editor-in-chief, argued: “We can stop looking for models. We can analyse the data without hypotheses about what it might show. We can throw the numbers into the biggest computing clusters the world has ever seen and let statistical algorithms find patterns where science cannot.”

Notes:

Folksonomies: computer science programming

Taxonomies:
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/science (0.377627)
/technology and computing/internet technology/social network (0.354054)

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Entities:
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Concepts:
Scientific method (0.972307): dbpedia_resource
Computer (0.920273): dbpedia_resource
Science (0.888435): dbpedia_resource
Mathematics (0.834124): dbpedia_resource
Computer science (0.772830): dbpedia_resource
Algorithm (0.750153): dbpedia_resource
Theory (0.670956): dbpedia_resource
Epistemology (0.559779): 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