This was an amazingly fascinating read. I don’t usually read non-fiction books because, let’s face it, I like to read to escape reality, not to dwell more on it… but, lately, I’ve had to do some research for college and/or I’ve wanted to find out more about things because I feel I’ve been ignoring the world at large for too long and only concentrating on my little patch… and that’s not good. Even if I love my little patch.
So, anyway, I’m taking a class on Internet Studies and it’s really interesting. I guess we all take the internet, the web, for granted… it’s ‘out there’ even though we carry in our pocket all the time, we rely on it for the smooth running of our lives, for our music and our shopping and booking our holidays etc… and we moan about it too, it’s evil, it’s ruining society… blah blah blah… forgetting that actually… the web is us. It’s us, human, who make it, who use it, who load it with data and perhaps if we’d use it more responsibly we’d get more benefits, we’d avoid the exploitations, we’d avoid the abuse… We made the internet, but it’s easy to forget that.
I’m wondering off at a tangent here, but maybe not… ok, this book, really well written in simple language by Dr Hannha Fry, is a really eye opener and a good introduction to these mysterious things that are ruling our lives (if we let them, which we always do, it turns out) and are all pervasive even if we don’t know.
Algorithms are behind the annoying Instagram changes, they’re behind the suggestions of programs on Netflix and in the pages of Google search. They label and order your holiday photos, they taylor the ads you see according to your preferences, the allow Alexa and Siri to do what you ask them etc. etc. Some algorithm will do a combination of things, some are rule based and constructed by humans… other are machine based algorithms and they come under the artificial intelligence umbrella.
Sounds scary? It is and it isn’t. I read this book fully expecting to pack my bags and move to a desert island live off coconuts and algae from the sea at the end of it… instead I’m left with a surprising glimmer of hope, so I think I’ll stay and fight on.
We just have to take responsibility for our actions and not dump everything, our decision making, our morality onto a machine to do it for us. That can only end badly.
In conclusion, it’s a really really good book. I think kids/teenagers should read it to learn more of the world they know (they think they know, at any rate) because it poses really good questions about the sort of future we’re making for ourselves, the dangers they might encounter. I think our generation should read it and perhaps stop the old adagio ‘in my days it was better’… because it wasn’t, not all of it anyway, and if we want to still argue about that it’s better we de-bunk the urban myths and be better informed, there’s still time to do our part.
But just as a word of warning… or a suggestion perhaps… next time that Spotify, or Apple Music, or Amazon, whatever… does the usual “oh, you listen to this… you will like that…” and highlights something identical/very similar to what you just uploaded… BE A REBEL, never cease to explore, to get out of your comfort zone, try something completely different. Don’t let it flatten you to one dimensional being just because it’s cozy and comfortable.
And now if you’ll excuse me I have a bed to make… no algorithm for that yet…