Earlier this summer, I learned about Radical Technologies, a book written by Adam Greenfield detailing how technology is transforming our world. One of Adam’s hypotheses is we are unwittingly handing over vast amounts of information to powerful tech companies. Are we becoming algorithm hostages?
Recently I received an email from a friend in France who explained he had been negligent in keeping in touch because he went on holiday with his two sons to Corsica. He wanted me to befriend him on Facebook so I could view pictures of his boys with whom I play when in France. I befriended him, but had to hit the translate button. In the right hand margin up popped an advertisement for Gregory Porter’s new CD.
Who is Gregory Porter? An award-winning American jazz singer/songwriter who is extremely popular in Paris, France. How do I know? I was visiting my brother last month when he played a Gregory Porter CD. I called my brother to ask him where he bought the CD. Amazon. What was the sequence of algorithm computer cues – my befriending someone who lives in France and the second that a consumer named Matorin (rare name) bought a Gregory Porter CD on Amazon. Or did the algorithm pick up a third cue. My sister always sends my brother and me digital birthday gifts, so the cue knew we were brothers. For the record, every time I use Google on my birthday, candles flare up.
In my last post I wrote about Walmart: AI Leader. Consequently, I am a marketing geek who understands the power of consumer data. Inadvertently, I am concerned we have become algorithm hostages of high-tech.
I have this benign theory that there are no algorithms – it’s all just a great big hoax. Instead, they punch out massive numbers of random messages to billions of people. And one will always hit home – it’s the “broken watch always shows the correct time twice a day” effect. That’s my theory. I can always hope.
We live in interesting times, but perhaps it’s just a digital version of two-bit carney show where we allows ourselves to distracted by “shiny objects” and all they promise, while behind our backs (sometimes right under our noses) we are being robbed… only in modern times we really have no idea of everything we are giving up.