Tuesday, 3 January 2017

bellwether and bookworm

Boing Boing features the story of a couple of librarians who conspire to fabricate patrons in order to thwart an automated book-culling algorithm that has been deployed to reduce clutter and optimise circulation.
To save important but perhaps low circulating titles from the robot biblioclasm, the pair invented an avid reader to check out the threatened books but were eventually caught and punished for their transgression—not restricted to countermanding the computer but also for the fraudulent act of creating a fake registrant on the public-record and thus opening the floodgates of “check-out fraud” and trust in civic institutions. What do you think?  With finite space and withering resources, space and selection do of course come at a premium and weeding is a sometimes regrettable course of action, but this case really illustrates the limits of unbiased, objective automation foisted upon very human activities—how it can fall prey to the same decision-trees that fell human logic and invites itself to be gamed, employing mechanical Turks, like the article suggests, as a work-around for that which is above our administrative-rights to change.