The age of algorithms

We are living in a world that is increasingly dominated by the influence of algorithms.

Algorithms alone are neither inherently good or bad but it is worthwhile to spend time knowing how they work and that behind them is someone programming them.

They have become increasingly useful in terms of diagnosing cancer patients for instance, or helping prevent crimes. However, the interactions that people have had with algorithms on a day to day basis has not been exactly anything remotely positive.

It was recently flagged on Instagram and Facebook for instance, that algorithms were programmed in a way that was racist and suppressing the voices of black people.

Furthermore, algorithms used in advertising are becoming increasingly invasive and most people do not know how much of their privacy they have given away on social media.

There are many examples where algorithms have gone rogue and have resulted in disastrous results as highlighted in this article.

The way algorithms were used in the distribution of GCSE and A level results was an outright disaster and disgrace.

In terms of consumption of information and media, the situation can easily be regarded as a mess. There has never been more advertising, but equally so much of it has never been ignored as much as it has today. I am constantly recommended things that don’t particularly interest me and YouTube especially pushes the myth of scarcity to the point that YouTubers were burning themselves out to try and get a consistent amount of eyeballs on their content.

Google searches result in different results for different people and therefore providing a catalyst for misinformation and people not being able to agree on the facts.

The fundamental things that algorithms lack is sonder and empathy; an understanding of the emotion and complexity and unpredictability of humans. Nothing will ever replace the power of word of mouth or the felling to tension and eventual willingness for someone to enrol on a journey of learning or a problem being solved.

Algorithms alone cannot tackle complex problems.

Facebook’s motto for a long while has been ‘move fast and break things’. In the instance of algorithms, it is well worth stopping to take a breath, consider the ethics and implications of living in a world increasingly dominated by algorithms and consider the potential of ways in which they actually improve the way we operate instead allowing them to run amok and causing unnecessary damage.

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