Algorithms rearrange Luddites too!
Especially if they are algorithms for (privatized) bureaucracy.
A piece aiming to discuss how “many of our choices aren’t choices at all” describes an important day in the life of a guy called Tai.
Tai buys on Amazon dresses he finds on Instagram, and is going to a job interview arranged for him by one of his LinkedIn contacts, whom he originally met through the Tinder dating platform.
The article goes on and on to detail and discuss how Tai’s life “all seems kind of random at one level. But he can’t help but wonder about the degree to which the algorithms employed by Facebook, Google, Tinder, and Amazon have a role to play in his present circumstances.”
Good food for thought, which however gets a couple of things wrong. One is this:
“In this brave new world, many of our choices are in fact predestined”
Predestined means, depending on which dictionary you use:
- destined, decreed, determined, appointed, or settled beforehand
- action or eventcontrolled or unchangeable because already decided by a power such as God or fate
“Predestined” is the right word when someone or something decided, before you even realized you needed it, exactly which specific job, house or life partner you will get. That is not how it works, most of the time. More often than not, what algorithms decide beforehand is which options you will not have. Things like:
- not even seeing the best possible dates, unless you know how to hack dating sites
- not even seeing the best house, mortgage offer or car insurance
Algorithms. Algorithms everywhere
In the context of that article, “algorithms” is a synonim of “software-based management, control or surveillance systems”. It is wrong to say that:
“Unless you are a tech Luddite, algorithms are silently rearranging your life.”
All my work starts from this fact:
Your civil rights and the quality of your life depend on how software is used AROUND you.
Algorithms today rearrange everybody’s life. Unless one really, really is a hunter-gatherer living in a cave. If you live in any modern society, algorithms decide whether you will get mortgages, healthcare and much more.
Even if you have no mobile phone, no personal computer and live off your your very own vegetable garden and farm animals, in some mountain village.
The sooner we all get this fact, and act accordingly, the better.
Image sources: Memegenerator.net, Dilbert.com and “Targeting Neo-Luddites in the21st Century”