Sunday, 11 September 2016

arraignment or computer says no

Thanks to the discerning eye of Nag on the Lake, we are directed to very important back-pocket thought that’s really in the forefront of things, presented in a quite clever and accessible way. First reading the title of this offensive called “Weapons of Math Destruction,” I took it initially as a needed critique on the poor state of mathematical literacy and how easily people can be manipulated by bald statistics that someone along the telephone-tree didn’t understand or made up altogether—which was not the thesis—but I think a part of it does fall to us as the creators of, contributors to Big Data to take a responsibility for our own leavings and to try to dispel confirmation-bias (which comes honesty to machines by end-users’ trust in incomplete scenarios). The responsibility is ours no matter how powerless and misused we might feel since it is our measureable actions and reactions that school our trial by algorithm.  Naturally, as we feel the stare of prying eyes that have reduced privacy and disengagement as a potential customer to a rare commodity, we can anticipate the next level when we potential face condemnation and punishment for our actions before we do them. 
While it is certainly a mixed-bag of results and hard to gauge the true benefits we’ve gotten by bearing our souls and movements and preferences to a human moderated internet, there is good to be had out there, not forgetting we are responsible and heir to any and all outcome.  As machines learn at a rate that outstrips our ability to react, the formulæ that govern our credit-worthiness and interest will unfold into something larger to affect notions of free-will and executive-agency. It is unacceptable surely that anyone is judged and sentenced for pre-crime, but it may come in forms more unintentionally insidious than that, if we’re not careful. Without ill-will, the Internet of Things may conspire against you to discourage you from pursing that job-application, ballot or travel plans, thinking it is doing you a favour by sparing you the disappointment. What sort of strength of character does it take to survive in a world where not only that corrects one’s spelling or makes recommendations based on one’s purchasing history but to face a systematic and coordinated battery of disengagement and discouragement?  Or alternately, support and cheerleading?  One’s history could just as easily suggest that one is not worth the effort medically or won’t be buying anything anyway and ought to be banned transit as facilitating pathways to success, and I think that that takes a critical eye, just like dharma and motivation in the real-cum-virtual world. Are we prepared to have that built into our infrastructure, as we might experience the Universe as sending us messages? What do you think?