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.

LIFE 3.0

I just completed reading “Life 3.0, Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence.”  This was not one of my better selections, but I read it to the end anyway. The subject intrigued me. I first heard the term Artificial Intelligence used some thirty years ago, and it didn’t hurt me to finally learn something about the topic. Artificial intelligence refers to super computers with programs that learn, and adapt quickly. The only real example of AI that I know of is the IBM computer that beat the world champion Russian chess player at chess.

Behind the scenes that I am familiar with there is an army of people developing software and hardware to think like humans. The current rage of robots need AI to exist. Author Max Tegmark is obviously a genius at AI. He teaches at MIT and writes about two miles over my feeble brain level. I thoroughly enjoyed the Prelude titled The Tale of the Omega Team. This is a well drafted story of robots gifted with AI, and how they develop into a force we don’t want to reckon with. When I began reading The Tale of the Omega Team the story was totally believable given the advanced level of today’s technology. The story hooked me into complete concentration, but as the narrative developed I began to suspect Omega Team was toying with me. It was. As Omega used its experiences to learn, he quickly adapted to become smarter and smarter surpassing his creator in intelligence. The story became more and more preposterous, but still very believable. The Tale of the Omega Team could very well become a TV series.

The last two chapters were also very engrossing. Tegmark’s discussion on consciousness is very insightful, and one realizes that making an AI machine into a real human requires consciousness. How to do that is another monumental task. The last chapter deals with the people who are currently developing AI. However, they agree that developers need a set of rules by which to guide themselves to keep from creating AI monsters.

The chapters in between the Prelude and Consciousness were so steeped in physics, philosophy, and mathematics that I found them about as exciting as I did during college reading my books on differential equations, and meta-physics. The physics discussions were so far beyond my comprehension that I could have skipped them and been just as satisfied. Most probably, that is because my knowledge of physics peaked in 1960, and the physics in this tome has developed since then.

I enjoyed reading this book, but I am glad I finished. Because of the level of difficulty I have to rate this book at three stars. However, I rate the prelude, The Tale of the Omega Team five stars.

 

The Beauty of Age

BAC-ATM-with-Teller-Assist-photo-12

Having recently experienced a similar exasperation while dealing with my bank over the phone this piece stuck me as hilarious. I only regret that I did not think of this first. I guess I am not old enough to conjure up this kind of logical thinking.

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Elderly Banking… …………..PRICELESS

!! Shown below, is an actual letter that was sent to a bank by an 82-year-old woman. The bank manager thought it amusing enough to have it published in the New York Times.

Dear Sir:
I am writing to thank you for bouncing my check with which I endeavored to pay my plumber last month. By my calculations, three nanoseconds must have elapsed between his presenting the check and the arrival in my account of the funds needed to honor it.

I refer, of course, to the automatic monthly deposit of my entire pension, an arrangement which, I admit, has been in place for only eight years.You are to be commended for seizing that brief window of opportunity, and also for debiting my account $30 by way of penalty for the inconvenience caused to your bank.

My thankfulness springs from the manner in which this incident has caused me to rethink my errant financial ways. I noticed that whereas I personally answer your telephone calls and letters, — when I try to contact you, I am confronted by the
impersonal, overcharging, pre-recorded, faceless entity which  your bank has become.

From now on, I, like you, choose only to deal with a flesh-and-blood person.

My mortgage and loan repayments will therefore and hereafter no longer be automatic, but will arrive at your bank, by check, addressed personally and confidentially to an employee at your bank whom you must nominate. Be aware that it is an OFFENSE under the Postal Act for any other person to open such an envelope.

Please find attached an Application Contact which I require your chosen employee to complete. I am sorry it runs to eight pages, but in order that I know as much about him or her as your bank knows about me, there is no alternative.

Please note that all copies of his or her medical history must be countersigned by a Notary Public, and the mandatory details of his/her financial situation (income, debts, assets and liabilities) must be accompanied by documented proof.

In due course, at MY convenience, I will issue your employee with a PIN number which he/she must quote in dealings with me. I regret that it cannot be shorter than 28 digits but, again, I have modeled it on the number of button presses required of me to access my account balance on your phone bank service. As they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Let me level the playing field even further. When you call me, press buttons as follows:

IMMEDIATELY AFTER DIALING, PRESS THE STAR (*) BUTTON FOR ENGLISH
#1. To make an appointment to see me.
#2. To query a missing payment.
#3. To transfer the call to my living room in case I am there.
#4. To transfer the call to my bedroom in case I am sleeping.
#5. To transfer the call to my toilet in case I am attending to
nature.
#6. To transfer the call to my mobile phone if I am not at home.
#7. To leave a message on my computer, a password to access my computer is required. Password will be communicated to you at a later date to that Authorized Contact mentioned earlier.
#8. To return to the main menu and to listen to options 1 through 7 again
#9. To make a general complaint or inquiry. The contact will then be put on hold, pending the attention of my automated answering service.
#10. This is a second reminder to press* for English.

While this may, on occasion, involve a lengthy wait, uplifting music will play for the duration of the call.

Regrettably, but again following your example, I must also levy an establishment fee to cover the setting up of this new arrange-
ment.

May I wish you a happy, if ever so slightly less prosperous New Year?

Your Humble Client

And remember: Don’t make old people mad. We don’t like being old in the first place, so it doesn’t take much to piss us off.

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