Strategies Reduce The Influence Of Manipulation Of The Algorithms On People

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Algorithm is defined as a process or set of rules to be followed in calculations or other problem-solving operations, especially by a computer. However, Franklin Foer describes it as “a system, a human artifact, not a mathematical truism” in his article “Mark Zuckerberg’s War on Free Will”. He continues to state that algorithms are in fact originated from humans, however we never associate it with human behavior. Undeniably, this is how algorithms begin to manipulate its users. For instance, on YouTube algorithms pick up on your behaviors and behaviors of people like you and infers that you must be interested in what’s about to play next. As Foer states, “An algorithm interprets more than 100,000 “signals” to make its decisions about what users see. Some of these signals apply to all Facebook users; some reflect users’ particular habits and the habits of their friends”. In this instance algorithms are stripping us from our freedom as it is no longer a choice and it’s telling us what we should watch. If a phenomenon, such as algorithms, undermines our freedom, then it is prejudiced and we should seek to constrain or minimize it. Biases can be reduced by either the users, the creators, or the people creating these platforms; however, the most impactful would be the users. Strategies I would propose to reduce the influence of manipulation of these algorithms are informing the public of the algorithms, promoting radical transparency, creating multiple accounts or profiles on certain websites, and ultimately discontinuing the use of algorithms altogether.

In order to fix an issue, you have to be aware of the issue present. As Foer explicitly states, “That’s what makes Facebook’s algorithm so powerful. Many users — 60 percent, according to the best research—are completely unaware of its existence”. We aren’t capable of reducing the influence of manipulation if people aren’t aware of its presence. I believe that creators should be forced to make algorithms public to help people understand why they see the things they see on their Facebook timeline or in their suggested search boxes. After all, these algorithms for “why your loan applications got rejected or why flight tickets cost as much as they do” are ultimately created by humans. It’s essential to understand what’s happening and why it’s happening to tackle the issue; however, a lot of individuals don’t care to think why or are completely unaware of it happening due to mechanical thinking. Mechanical thinking is defined as automated thinking, predictable thinking, and puts humans in a routine, much like a machine. The algorithms that are behind these websites such as Facebook, Amazon, and even Netflix are determining what we see. People are becoming dependent on algorithms to make our daily decisions for us which is where this automated thinking comes in. As Foer points out, “Facebook would never put it this way […] without our even being aware of the hand guiding us, in a superior direction”. Mechanical thinking is leading to the end of human creativity and free will as we are becoming more dependent. We are starting to do less and less for ourselves and soon enough we will become the robots. Therefore, it’s important to inform the public about what’s going on with algorithms in an effective way, such as through social media. Maybe if a hacker, the “good worker, a responsible Facebook citizen” and get them to mass produce an ad that thoroughly and effectively gets the point across to the people.

Creating awareness of the problem with algorithms would help get that 60% of people who are “completely unaware of the its existence” down to 0%. Furthermore, promoting radical transparency would also help to reduce the influence of manipulation of algorithms that we meet every day. Radical transparency is defined as “the transparency of individuals” or often referred to as “ultimate transparency”. The purpose of radical transparency was that it would lead to individual authenticity and put an end to hypocrisy, which is turn would make the world a better place as it would “disinfect the moral mess of our lives”. As the Zuckerberg states, “The days of you having a different image for your work friends or co-workers and for the other people you know are probably coming to an end pretty quickly.

Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity”. Correspondingly, conformity would come with radical transparency which would overall reduce bias. Conformity is defined as a type of social influence involving a change in belief or behavior in order to fit in with a group. Fore states that “The theory holds that the sunshine of sharing our intimate details will prod us to become more tolerant of one another’s sins”. Here he’s explaining that if everyone’s information is put out there many people would act the best way they could to avoid judgment or simply because you know everyone is watching. Foer, doesn’t believe conformity is a good thing and it isn’t when it’s against your will. User’s on Facebook and Instagram are conforming unwillingly ultimately to avoid being the social outcast. It’s our natural instinct to want to fit in and be liked by a group of people and the consequences of this may be to never show who you really are. Individuals even conform Moreover, creating multiple accounts where you change the way you act can give you a different perspective on each profile, as it is a different algorithm. Mark Zuckerberg wanted Facebook to be a platform where people could speak freely and be one’s true self, however, with the algorithms behind Facebook this is far from it. Zuckerberg states, “The days of you having a different image for your work friends or co-workers and for the other people you know are probably coming to an end pretty quickly,” and he continues to state that “having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity”. However, this is hypocrisy, how could one want to create a platform made for individualism but make the platform have these underlying factors such as the algorithms. Algorithms take away from the individuality and promotes conformity. If one were to create multiple accounts that cater to different things that define them then maybe they would begin to see the big picture and not be blinded by these biases.

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Alternatively, in order to reduce the manipulation of the algorithms, people could stop using them; however, it’s not that simple. Algorithms are in our everyday life and has become something that we heavily depend on. Due to mechanical thinking people have become heavily reliant on the internet showing us what we might be interested in or showing us things related to our past searches. As Foer states, “Facebook is always surveilling users, always auditing them, using them as lab rats in its behavioral experiments. While it creates the impression that it offers choice, in truth Facebook paternalistically nudges users in the direction it deems best for them, which also happens to be the direction that gets them thoroughly addicted”. Nothing, especially something like social media, should be capable of having so much power over your day to day decisions, even something as little as what to watch next on YouTube. These algorithms are giving people what they think they want rather than just searching for what they actually want if they took the time to just search for it on their own. Although algorithms possess heavy influence, some of this influence may be helpful if the user remains in control. After all, it’s just a well-defined procedure that takes an input and gives an output; however, it becomes dangerous when mechanical thinking begins to take over. Algorithms are helpful in instances such as when you are writing a paper and you google the topic, a bunch of articles and those related to it come up. This is better than having to go to the library, or even multiple libraries, and manually search for everything.

The algorithms can help you narrow down broad searches and even show you which article is best to use for your particular question. Foer states that, “The algorithm was developed in order to automate thinking, to remove difficult decisions from the hands of humans, to settle contentious debates” (63-64). When being used for research purposes it can be helpful, but the algorithms behind these huge corporations that are essentially running our life must be controlled. Quite evidentially, algorithms don’t only “remove difficult decisions from the hands of humans,” but removes essentially all decisions from the hands of humans. Algorithms have become a lot more significant and vital than that because we have lost control. Ultimately, to lessen the manipulation of these algorithms are to not use it or if you do choose so, be cautious and make sure you are in control.

In conclusion, it is essential that we inform one another of these algorithms because we can’t begin to fix the problem if we aren’t aware of the problem. Reducing the manipulation of the algorithms would help us to think for our own and not get stuck in these ways of mechanical thinking. Anything that undermines our freedom should be taken away in certain instances as it can be harmful to society if not controlled. If we practice our resistance techniques, the people could make significant changes in how algorithms are effecting our day to day decision making.

Fixing the issue while we still can is important before we become subject to artificial intelligence and its algorithms.

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