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24 January 2014 @ 12:56 pm
ALGORITHMS: ALLY OR MENACE?  
http://youtu.be/TDaFwnOiKVE

This is a little bit old, but I only just saw it. It started out exuding the TEDtalkiness I've come to dislike, with genuine quality of presentation but just so extremely so, the art of the speech and the perfect delivery on some intriguing topic with an insight into the human condition. Oh just so that. But then it began creeping in on me, the relentless fearmongering, the assault against algorithms. It became a parody that I could almost believe this was a work of performance art so genius, creating this fantastical science fiction vision of the algorithms coming alive! Does he believe this or is it just crafted to get a certain reaction?

He describes it as though math itself is coming alive, and beginning to make its own decisions, and shape the world for its benefit, and use us to achieve its ends. He draws on a lot of human-centric fears and technophobias, berating the lack of "human control" over the trading in the stock market. The threat of algorithms grows, with each new instance of how they are out there... making decisions... "They're even in our homes!" In different robotic vacuum cleaners that you've just welcomed in, and now they're competing with each other - in other words, they're becoming alive. Look out! Behind you! ALGORITHMS!

Am I the only one here who's thrilled? Who's thinking, if this man is not simply fear-mongering in some weird postmodernist display of insight into the logical desires of a generation of children raised on science fiction, then this means that we've done it? We've created new life, new intelligence? It's making decisions and using the resources at hand - us - to achieve their own ends? Am I the only one hot between her thighs? This is some gorgeous work of scifi literature, complete with morality tale and LIVING MACHINES.

It just so happened that the next thing I watched was this:
http://youtu.be/j_flx26bU0Q
Notice the difference in presentation: this narrator is expressive, but his voice is not trained to exact just such an emotion out of you. He's giving you the facts as he knows them, commenting here and there, but mostly allowing you to feel your own excitement at an explanation of how life may have actually happened. I'm actually learning things here, with only a modicum of the information being wrapped in cultural assumptions and valuation judgments.

Anyway these made surprisingly appropriate companion pieces. Thank you, algorithms, for telling me what to do.