Algorithm

Algorithms are very much present in our everyday lives, particularly in the consumerism sphere. Corporations like Facebook and Google track our activity across websites so that they can display the most relevant ads to us or show us the posts they think we’d find interesting on social media. And I think at this point it’s been confirmed that these companies have access to our microphones and webcams as well, so if you’re talking about buying dog toys, even if you never search up “dog toys” Google will display dog toy ads. While I don’t think algorithms like these really run our lives, I do think they lure us to buy more stuff, like ads always have. Capitalism and all that. I don’t necessarily think they change the way we got about life. However, Joy Buolamwimi’s talk about coding bias brings another lens to this conversation. It’s almost funny how bias factors into so many things, even something as seemingly neutral as coding. Sometimes I forget that computer scientists have been historically white and male, and still make up the majority of the field. It’s probably because ITP and IMA are quite diverse, which I appreciate. The historical lack of diversity has taken its toll, though. Luckily, I think that this can be a fairly simple wrong to right. After all, code can be easily shared and accessed, and in the case of machine learning, anyone can contribute to training sets. Initiatives like Joy’s Coded Gaze and Ari’s Afrotechtopia are truly important moving forward, as we think about the impact and reach of technology.

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