It’s well known that algorithms play an increasingly huge role in our lives, whether it’s delivering search results, filtering our job applications, helping to select potential dates or even driving our vehicles for us.
The extent of their influence on how we perceive the world was highlighted in a recent paper that was published in Information, Communication & Society.
I suspect most of us are aware that much of what we access online is fed by an algorithm of some sort, whether it’s our Facebook newsfeed or the accounts Twitter suggests we follow. While it’s tempting to think of algorithms as rational and anodyne, they often have a number of biases that can support stereotypes or restrict our choices.
The Robot Brain
Increasingly, algorithms are not taking a passive role but actively informing our decision-making, whether it’s telling us which selfies to choose or what is the best route to work. We are increasingly relying on a machine to make decisions for us.
This, in turn, the authors argue, is reinforcing in us the belief that data is all powerful. Wearable devices are capable of tracking an ever wider aspect of our life, with algorithms then typically analyzing our performances for us.
“By delegating everyday practices to technological processes, with the resultant need to break down and reduce complex actions into a series of steps and data decision points, algorithms epitomise and encapsulate a growing tendency towards atomization and fragmentation that resonates more broadly with an increasing emphasis on singularity, quantification and classification in the everyday,” the authors say.
What appears clear is that, for good or ill, our dependence upon algorithms is only set to increase.