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Discussion on: Algorithms are ruining our lives πŸ˜’

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patricknelson profile image
Patrick Nelson • Edited on

It's a very interesting problem, really, because we're talking about people creating very powerful systems which then are used as platforms for connecting other people. And, as you say, it's easy to demonize "The Algorithm," particularly if there isn't much clarity surrounding exactly what that really means since it can range anywhere from meaning basically all code, or simply the "secret sauce," or the proprietary components of how a company promotes users and content. As a developer, my interpretation of the colloquial use of the "The Algorithm" (as a sort of proper noun) has been the latter.

As you say, it seems like inevitably the algorithms we have to write, despite our best efforts, may still result in feedback loops, both positive and negative. That is, they may reward "good" behavior and punish, so to speak, the "bad" behavior (or that which is deemed worth or unworthy by the mysterious almighty algorithm in the sky, er, "cloud"). It's amazing to watch as it favors a few, particularly on profitable platforms like Twitch, YouTube and etc. When so much money is involved, you're bound to see a huge amount of angst tied up in it; particularly when it involves the wellbeing of creators who begin to depend on it.

I don't have a whole lot to contribute to the discussion per se; just a muse as well. πŸ˜…

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technoglot profile image
Amelia Vieira Rosado 🐣✨ Author

I don't have a whole lot to contribute to the discussion per se; just a muse as well. πŸ˜…

No worries, this is a satisfactory contribution! I enjoyed reading your comment 😁 And to be honest, algorithms really feel like "secret sauce". Funny thing is that as a developer you are expected to understand what these "algorithms" entail. That stuff runs behind closed doors, not a single platform provides full disclosure on how these "algorithms" work. Neither do they share how they get so filthy rich thanks to the efforts of their users. Sure, "advertisements". I bet there's much more going on behind the scenes than meets the eye.

But then again, as devs we should know better as to not generically call these things "algorithms". If I knew better, I'd do better! πŸ˜‚

Thanks for sharing your thoughts! πŸ™ŒπŸ»

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miguelmj profile image
MiguelMJ

Alright, it's fair to interpret "The Algorithm" as the proprietary components promoting different creators or content. However, I don't like to use the name "algorithm" for that, because in that case it is actually the interests of private companies that make the difference, and "The Algorithm" makes it sound like it's not something human-controlled. Private companies shouldn't wash their hands using that term.

And in the end, even if there were no private interests behind, even if the algorithms were completely public and open, they would not be bias free. And these kind of differences is what us, as experts, should communicate to the general public.

  • Algorithms will always be limited, so know what to expect.
  • However, there are components in them (the secret sauce) that give power to certain private interests, but those are always human-controlled, so don't blame technology: blame greedy people.

Thanks for your answer, Patrick, it made me think!

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patricknelson profile image
Patrick Nelson • Edited on

However, I don't like to use the name "algorithm" for that, because in that case it is actually the interests of private companies that make the difference, and "The Algorithm" makes it sound like it's not something human-controlled.

Just to be clear, I personally don't like it either! πŸ˜… I, for years, would cringe when I would hear folks use the term "hacking" to refer to essentially any form of nefarious activity involving computers in any form; and these are likely folks who probably have very little to no expertise whatsoever in technology (which is fine), much less an understanding of the historical context of the origin of the term "hacking", both in the old school and new school senses.

I've just learned to try and understand what they mean and then endeavor to help them understand what "hacking" really means to me. The same would apply to "The Algorithm" as well!

... but those are always human-controlled, so don't blame technology: blame greedy people.

Absolutely 100%. As experts in the field, it's our duty to remind people that these mysterious algorithms we speak of, these scary technologies... are made by people. For control and for profit.