Algorithm, the New Dirty Word

cake-algorithm

Since when did the word algorithm evolve into an evil demon? So often I hear of Facebook, and Twitter leaders refer to algorithms in an accusatory way. As if the word itself resides within the computer. I haven’t read anything about how the Silicon Valley gods have breathed life into computers. The lords at Facebook and Twitter have been caught with their pants down around their ankles and to weasel out of their dilemma they blame things on the mighty “algorithm.”

Here is the definition of algorithm:

a process or set of rules to be followed in calculations or other problem-solving operations, especially by a computer: a basic algorithm for division.”

So who is giving the computer instructions within the algorithm to screen conservative voices?  Certainly the computer does not have the intelligence to do anything by itself. I admit, the beauty of modern programming languages make it easier for a man to give the computer instructions, but once an algorithm process is defined it can only change if a man changes it. The lords may allude to artificial intelligence programs doing it, but I cannot buy that at this time. Artificial Intelligence or AI has been a concept floating around since before the eighties. Men keep envisioning a day when the AI computer will replace humans as workers. I remember when computer salesmen were selling us on the idea that we will have a computers on our desks and they will be able to  perform wonderful things. That was also in the nineteen eighties. Many of the things they promised then are just becoming useful to us today. My math says the “sell” took thirty-three years to become reality. I’ve seen some tremendous improvements in computers and in software during the years of my useful employment, but AI isn’t one of them. The closest application we’ve seen that uses AI is the self driving car. I applaud Google and Tesla for testing the self drivers on real highways. It is the only way they will ultimately prevail. What I don’t applaud them for is killing people during the test. The reason they have failures is that the sensors they install on cars are nowhere near the quality or comprehensiveness of the human senses feeding data to the greatest computer in the universe, the human brain. What I predict is that AI will not become a practical vehicle to replace humans in simple jobs for another thirty years.

The lowly algorithm is being used as a political ploy by the lords to sell a line of B.S. to a seemingly ignorant public. That is where the lords are getting it wrong, we aren’t ignorant. When Facebook screens content to prevent conservatives from having a voice they are denying us our Constitutional rights.

During the early twentieth century there were a number of mega-companies that got so big their lords felt they were invincible. Good old Uncle came to the rescue and filed lawsuits to break up their bigness. It seems to me it may be time for Uncle to kick into gear again and set some regulatory controls that will protect we the people from evil algorithms, or better yet the evil people who program the algorithms to do evil things.

One Response

  1. Very timely. I agree. Somewhere behind any algorithm is the human hand. Even self-learning algorithms, if in use, have been programmed by a human hand to learn in a certain way.

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