If there’s one thing that’s entered the lexicon of surety as “death and taxes,” it’s this: At any timeyou, or something you own, is interacting with an algorithm across the web. Sometimes, in ways you never thought possible, let alone envisioned. Not as pithy as the first I’ll grant you that. However, as for surety? Count on it.
It’s hard to imagine a life without the web as we currently know it. What’s even more amazing is what we currently know as “the web” is younger than an adolescent child. Yes, the “world-wide web” is older (older being more akin to an older sibling shaking off adolescence I’ll remind you) but the web and all what we basically take for granted today is no older than 7 to 9 years old. Everything that you now take for granted, as far as, what you can do, know, facilitate, and more has been around no longer than it has taken a toddler in 2007 to reach the second grade today.
Why do I use 2007 as the starting point? Easy: The iPhone®.
Up and until that point what we now take for granted was bulky, clumsy, and in many ways unattainable. After? It’s been nothing but an all out blur. And the only way to make all this wonderful tech available to both you and me on demand, custom tailored, as well as “free” has been another rise that without it; nothing would be as we now know it. e.g., The rise of algorithmic robotic programming.
After the iPhone the flood gates opened and smartphones are now about as ubiquitous as clothing. It’s currently hard to imagine anyone leaving the house without their smart phone. For many, leaving the house without it strikes about as much fear (for some even more) than realizing you’ve left the house without any pants. But a little more perspective is also needed: Smartphones really didn’t take off till a few years later, say about late ’09 into ’10. And apps? Well after 2010. So why is this all relevant you might be asking. It’s a fair question and it is this…
Basically everything you now know, or think you know, about how all the “plumbing” works along with who controls “the flow,” and how – is less than 5 years old.
Don’t let that point be lost on you. Take a moment and ponder it. That’s how new everything you now take as “a given” truly is. We are not even 6 months into 2016 where less than 6 years ago if someone suggested “apps are the next thing as to replace purchased software” you would either be laughed out of the room, or asked, “What’s an app?” (on an aside, not only was I one of those people suggesting, I was one of the first to have his own dedicated personal app in the Apple Store™ in 2010.) Which takes us to today…
And while I’ve brought up the topic of “laughing.” Have you noticed a recurring defense emanating from the “world of tech” when it applies to allegations of impropriety? i.e., “It’s not us, it’s the algorithms.” Funny thing is this – you don’t hear that line when things are going just ducky do you?
Stock market levitating higher? “All done via superior trading, insights, and brain power located here at ___________” (fill in your Wall St. firm of choice.)
Need to reach a target audience? “With our amazing engineers along with our elite core of coders, we can place what you need, where you want it here at ________________” (fill in you social media platform of choice here.)
“If you want to be found – you need to be found by us or, you won’t be found at all based on our amazing group of talented people here at ___________(fill in your search engine of choice.)
However, when something goes wrong? “Must be something with the algo’s!” Or, “It’s not something we’ve done intentionally, it’s the algo’s that__________(fill in the excuse line du jour here.)
I’m beginning to find it fascinating at just how willing today’s group of “tech dependent smart phone addicts” brush aside excuses where they may have been both actively, as well as, intentionally manipulated via their platform of choice – without their knowledge or consent.
Do something similar with a brick and mortar based facility? Let’s just put it this way; even as small of an infraction such as running out of McNuggets™ can land one with an irate customer calling 911 to straighten out the issue.
As I iterated earlier if the “markets” are going up? Thumbs are pointed inwards to denote “It’s us!” Market begins tanking? All fingers are pointed at the machines in a “It’s the algo’s fault – not us!” Same with the likes (no pun intended) of Facebook™ and, what now appears to be another caught in this web of “It’s not us!” algorithmic questioning: Google™.
I found it laughable when one looks at the current excuses being bandied about that Google is somehow not responsible or, at the very least trying to make it appear as if the algos run their own world and Goog’ is just a place for them to play. Whether nice or not. For me I have only one question to ask…
Who creates the algos? And, if the algos are producing a result that is deemed favorable for the creator – even if this was not the intention as first created – if the algo is left unchecked to continue in that fashion: who is at fault? Today it seems it is the algo. Never the developer or the system that enables it. Funny how that happens, no?
Over the last 5 to 6 years algos have been allowed to take control over entire sectors of the web and more. Far more. Many of those sectors (such as those which can affect people in their decision-making processes for good or ill) have been implemented nearly without question, as well as, without any doubts for their helpfulness.
Many need reminding – you are being guided by a technology that’s both the same in age, as well as, laden with similar excuses for its results as a five-year old would use. i.e., “I don’t know why my hand is in the cookie jar?”
Whether or not one agrees with the current stand or excuses given by Facebook (in regards to allegations of suppression) Wall Street (as in defense for its parasitic use of HFT) or now Google with the allegations for the possibility of deliberate search manipulation. One needs to remember:
Those algos or machines aren’t from the future like some sci-fi film would render. No, these machines are both designed, built, and allowed to run based on the decisions of the people either in charge – or those that own them. e.g, Humans – not machines.
Whether or not a result was rendered via the algorithm that it was designed for – or not – should not be allowed to subordinate the main question that should be at the forefront: Who allowed, or was a blind eye turned in which to allow the results to continue?
That should always be the first question. Not, the initial response for excusing which we’ve seen over, and over, and over again resembling “It’s wasn’t us – it was the algos!”
You wouldn’t let a real 5-year-old get away with it. Let alone the parents of one. And to do anything less is about the same as now letting that five-year old which now knows instinctively, as well as, intuitively how to push your buttons to get their way and run roughshod over your life. Machine or not.
© 2016 Mark St.Cyr