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Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Surrendering to Algorithms

Perhaps instructive, or what might be expected.   

What I learned surrendering my life to algorithms   in Cnet.

I outsourced several of my daily decisions to algorithms for a week, to better understand the lines of code playing a greater and greater role in guiding our lives.

BY Jesse Orrall

The tree of life was dying, and we had run out of ideas on how to save it. We had tried everything we could think of and were hopelessly stuck when a voice chirped through a walkie-talkie, informing us that the mouse in the corner could give us a hint.

As I awaited instructions from a fake mouse in an escape room above a KFC, I couldn't help but think this was a fitting conclusion to my weeklong experiment surrendering my life to algorithms.

If our computers are a window to the online world, algorithms are key mediators whose intervention clearly impacts what we see, and therefore what we do. They filter our search results (for example: Google, Bing), curate our social media feeds (Facebook, Twitter) and make recommendations for new products and experiences (Amazon, Yelp). 

For internet users, these algorithms can help us sort through the mass of information at our fingertips. For the companies that develop them, algorithms are tools for amassing valuable data, streamlining the shopping and browsing experience and encouraging us to spend more money. Algorithms are also becoming important tools in the high-stakes arenas of workplace management, financial investment and policing.

Despite algorithms' centrality to the online experience (and increasingly our real-world experience) their inner workings are largely a mystery, since they're the closely guarded intellectual property of the companies that use and develop them. In an effort to better understand algorithms, how well they work and how well they know me, I embarked on an experiment to surrender my life to algorithms for a week. This might not be what the coders had in mind, but that didn't stop me from trying, or from gleaning some helpful insights along the way.  ... ' 

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