I ran across this article from the Independent today about the impacts of data algorithms, the ethics of data mining, and the future of our lives in an automated, data-crunching world. Below is a quote from the article by Jaron Lanier, musician, computer scientist and author of the bestseller You Are Not a Gadget.
Algorithms themselves are a form of creativity. The problem is the illusion that they’re free-standing. If you start to think that information isn’t just a mask behind which people are hiding, if you forget that, you’ll pay a price for that way of thinking. It will cause you to be less creative.
If you show me an algorithm that dehumanises, impoverishes, manipulates or spies upon people,” he continues, “that same core maths can be applied differently. In every case. Take Facebook’s new Timeline feature [a diary-style way of displaying personal information]. It’s an idea that has been proposed since the 1980s [by Lanier himself]. But there are two problems with it. One, it’s owned by Facebook; what happens if Facebook goes bankrupt? Your life disappears – that’s weird. And two, it becomes fodder for advertisers to manipulate you. That’s creepy. But its underlying algorithms, if packaged in a different way, could be wonderful because they address a human cognitive need.
I think this is a really great read for anyone who’s interested in data, algorithms, and their impact on society – there’s a lot of really good stuff to take in. You can read the entire article here…