If you don’t believe me watch this TED talk by Kevin Slavin:
For those of you don’t know the significance of how a lot of our daily lives are dependent on algorithms, I guess a definition is in order:
“In mathematics and computer science, an algorithm (Listeni/ˈælɡərɪðəm/ al-gə-ri-dhəm) is a step-by-step procedure for calculations. Algorithms are used for calculation, data processing, and automated reasoning.
An algorithm is an effective method expressed as a finite list of well-defined instructions for calculating a function. Starting from an initial state and initial input (perhaps empty), the instructions describe a computation that, when executed, proceeds through a finite number of well-defined successive states, eventually producing “output” (emphasis mine) and terminating at a final ending state. The transition from one state to the next is not necessarily deterministic; some algorithms, known as randomized algorithms, incorporate random input.”
Now, if you’re a thinking individual, the implications of these developments quickly become obvious. The use of algorithms and higher and higher data speeds raise some important questions. All the media attention is about the high frequency traders and how the financial markets are rigged, but we knew that already and other implications become apparent.
Think about Kevin’s statement, “No human can possibly know what the interactions between these algorithms will produce, they only see what is on the screen in front of them.” and the sentence in the definition of algorithms, “the instructions describe a computation that, when executed, proceeds through a finite number of well-defined successive states, eventually producing “output” and terminating at a final ending state.” (emphasis mine)
Why do you think that the NSA is collecting all the data that can be collected on everyone in the world? Why do you think they’re building a multi-billion dollar data center in Utah? By the way, check out the pic of their entrance sign from their own website:
It certainly appears to me that this new paradigm of unlimited algorithms producing “output” is definitely going to be the new normal when it comes to the police state. The government doesn’t follow too far behind digital trends in the corporate world with complete cooperation from the trendsetters in digital businesses who rely on intelligence agencies connected investors.
The question that raises is how can you be safe from the police state’s predations when everything is determined by an algorithm? The answer is you can’t in this increasingly connected world. Your number comes up on a computer screen and you’re screwed. It’s not going to help if you disconnect from everything online either, cancel all of your social media, disconnect your broadband, cancel your cell service and unplug from your cable TV; all that will do is make you that more of a target. The algorithms will find that suspicious as hell especially if you have a bit of a history of dissidence.
I wrote recently that I was distancing myself from social media. It wasn’t because I was worried that I was being surveilled, more just giving myself more time to do the things I need to do. I’m starting to reevaluate that decision. It appears the more we give the surveillance agencies to do, the slower they will be able to react. And, since I’ve already been identified as a subversive, it might be in my best interest to spread my ideas as far as this little humble blog will reach.
I might have been a bit premature that the algorithms run the world as I stated in the title of this post.
But not by much.