Are Your Views Biased By Your Computer?

Self validation is a wonderful thing. However it can also be a double-edged sword.

If you’re like me, you probably noticed in speaking (if you can get a word in edgewise) with others a real hardline on any given subject with statements and facts to help forge their arguments. But if you ask them where they are getting the information for their viewpoints. a funny little trait is starting to emerge if you listen. A response might take this form, ” I read it everywhere. It’s all over the news, the papers. I read articles all the time and they all say the same thing.” Interesting I’ll say. But then I follow-up with, ” I’ve seen that also, but I also read in (fill in the blank) the exact opposite findings in their research. Where do they go wrong?” The usual response? ” Oh I don’t read that.”  To where my mind goes hmmmmmmm.

It’s not that people are wrong necessarily, but there seems to be a phenom manifesting that’s going under the radar. With today’s computer generated algorithms in anticipating content that you may like, based on content you have already viewed, is it not fair to say it can deliver biased news or opinions with an alarming overload?

Social networking is just that. It’s social. It wants to fit you, and everyone else into a collective sphere of thoughts, and likes. It wants to help push the comfort of the clique, the inside group, the group of similar likes or dislikes with the algorithmic efficiency of keeping out what it thinks you might not like. Sound far-fetched? Try this experiment yourself. Just go do a Google® search on anything you are interested in, but use more than 5 words or so in the query box and watch the results change as you’re typing. Try doing this but don’t just speed type it in and hit enter. Do it methodically. What you’re trying to do is watch the results as the algorithms try to anticipate your needs. For some the results can be glaring. For others the results can be alarming. You might not have noticed just how much you computer knows about you. Social networks, search queries, items you’ve bought, your friends, what they’ve looked for, what they’ve bought, all this quantifiable information is trying to express itself every time you’re at the computer. Why? Because it believes your biases are exactly the best thing to deliver, regardless of anything else. And why shouldn’t it, if you reward its bringing you only your biased information with looking for more of the same.

Gives a modern-day feel to the old adage, ” Show me who you hang around with, and I can tell who you are.”

But I might be biased in that opinion.


© 2011 Mark St.Cyr   All Rights Reserved