The Altar Of The Algorithm

Have you listened to my song “Follow the Algorithm“? We’re just at the cusp of this “brave new world” where The Algorithm will rule and reign over our lives.

News Corp CEO, Robert Thomson, called it “The Almighty Algorithm” recently…

“Algorithmic alchemy is redefining our commercial and social experiences, turning base matter into noble metals. But like the alchemists of old, algorithms are also a charlatan’s charter, allowing claims of pure science when human intervention is clearly doctoring results to suit either commercial imperatives or political agendas.”

Did you catch that? The Algorithm is often claimed to be “pure science” when, in fact, it’s probably more about making money or pushing agendas when it comes to the real world.

You can read more of Thomson’s remarks here.

Talked about is the “the manipulability, the pliability of algorithms”. Far from being objective foundation of fact, algorithms can be used to spin the tale we want to tell, all under the guise of being unbiased.

It’s not hard to see how “The Almighty Algorithm” could become addictive to those who wield it’s digital sword.

“Absolute power corrupts absolutely” – Lord Acton

And make no mistake about it, The Algorithm, is very, very powerful.

Thomson connects the dots rather well… The Algorithm is often about the money. He goes on to give examples of that, but the salient quote and point from Thomson in my mind is this:

“That is the wonder of an awesome, almighty algorithm – a tweak here and a tug there and you no longer exist, you are non-person or a non-company.”

You can simply make your competition disappear!

Thomson’s words are eerily reminiscent of a line from George Orwell’s 1984:

“People simply disappeared, always during the night. Your name was removed from the registers, every record of everything you had ever done was wiped out, your one-time existence was denied and then forgotten. You were abolished, annihilated: vaporized was the usual word.”

That kind of power is corrupting and addictive; that kind of digital fairy dust is hard to resist. The Algorithm conceals and reveals- wielding it’s mighty sword to fortify finances and solidify position. Heck, The Algorithm is the yellow brick road! Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain pulling the strings and levers of The Algorithm! And if you do happen to notice the charade? Well, the algorithm can take care of that too.

Such power requires pure hands and hearts not often found on planet Earth. Giving mere humans “almighty power” usually ends badly even if we start with the best intentions. Human nature being what it is we know The Algorithm is akin to the atomic bomb- it will eventually make it’s way into the wrong hands with all the destruction unbridled power is capable of unleashing.