The New Kid Defense: The Algorithm Made Me Do It

Excerpt from this article:

All my noble dreams of raising my two daughters around wooden Montessori-approved toys and bright-red metal wagons has completely degraded. But watching someone else play with toys is where I draw the line. “Is that a toy video?” I call warningly from across the room. Both girls suddenly jump back from the screen. “iPad picked it!” they defend.

And there it is. The algorithm defense — essentially the modern-day equivalent of “my dog ate my homework.” Like most streaming services we’re all familiar with, YouTube Kids automatically advances from one video to the next, attempting to predict what my kids will like.

Sadly, my children have watched enough of these toy videos without me noticing that the app often jumps there. So instead of blaming each other for the video selection, my kids blame a third thing I need to discipline: the machine.



Contraceptive app hit with complaints after being blamed for 37 unwanted pregnancies

Excerpt from this article:

Natural Cycles, a contraceptive app that became certified in the EU as a form of birth control, has been hit with a complaint after being blamed for causing 37 unwanted pregnancies, reports Swedish agency SVT. Södersjukhuset hospital in Stockholm reported the app to Swedish regulator MPA (the Medical Product Agency), after 37 women visited the hospital for an abortion after becoming pregnant while using Natural Cycles.

The app uses an algorithm and measures factors like temperature to determine the period when a woman may be fertile.

How Facebook Figures Out Everyone You’ve Ever Met

Excerpt from this article:

In the months I’ve been writing about PYMK, as Facebook calls it, I’ve heard more than a hundred bewildering anecdotes:

A man who years ago donated sperm to a couple, secretly, so they could have a child—only to have Facebook recommend the child as a person he should know. He still knows the couple but is not friends with them on Facebook.

A social worker whose client called her by her nickname on their second visit, because she’d shown up in his People You May Know, despite their not having exchanged contact information.

A woman whose father left her family when she was six years old—and saw his then-mistress suggested to her as a Facebook friend 40 years later.

An attorney who wrote: “I deleted Facebook after it recommended as PYMK a man who was defense counsel on one of my cases. We had only communicated through my work email, which is not connected to my Facebook, which convinced me Facebook was scanning my work email.”

Connections like these seem inexplicable if you assume Facebook only knows what you’ve told it about yourself. They’re less mysterious if you know about the other file Facebook keeps on you—one that you can’t see or control.

Signs of the Times


Excerpt from this website:

Who run the world? Collaborative filtering recommender algorithms. Also known as ‘Customers who bought this item also bought…’ suggestions. They’ve become ubiquitous in the online world, determining what we look at, buy and like…

Hopefully, you are now. Which was the point of putting these giant signs up in locations around New Zealand.

See also this video on BBC.