The new importance of understanding what algorithms can and can't do

Use this philosophy forum to discuss and debate general philosophy topics that don't fit into one of the other categories.

This forum is NOT for factual, informational or scientific questions about philosophy (e.g. "What year was Socrates born?"); such homework-help-style questions can be asked and answered on PhiloPedia: The Philosophy Wiki. If your question is not already answered on the appropriate PhiloPedia page, then see How to Request Content on PhiloPedia to see how to ask your informational question using the wiki.
Steve3007
Posts: 5568
Joined: June 15th, 2011, 5:53 pm
Favorite Philosopher: Eratosthenes
Location: UK

Re: The new importance of understanding what algorithms can and can't do

Post by Steve3007 » September 2nd, 2018, 4:55 pm

In the states Sinclair Broadcasting has written statements and prepared segments that all their affiliates must air.
The examples of those segments shown by John Oliver seem like such obvious propaganda, and so devoid of any pretense at presenting fair, factual information, that it would be nice to think that people will see through it. It would be nice to think that.

Fooloso4
Moderator
Posts: 3404
Joined: February 28th, 2014, 4:50 pm

Re: The new importance of understanding what algorithms can and can't do

Post by Fooloso4 » September 2nd, 2018, 5:52 pm

Steve3007:
… it would be nice to think that people will see through it.
The problem is, depending on where you get your information from, it is not easy to see through. The Right has been very effective at the control of information, in part by claiming that the Left, the “liberal media” is in control. This would simply be each side accusing the other of something, except for two things: 1) Things do not divide along the lines of Right and Left. There are some outlets that strive to be objective and impartial, and it ain’t the one that used to claim to be fair and balanced. 2) There is a difference between accusation and clear evidence. People cannot see through it by watching the local news affiliate, there is no evidence of it from a single source. They won’t find it on Fox and if they watch Fox they are not likely to watch shows like John Oliver’s. (A quick plug - his show is very funny and very informative). And the people they are targeting are typically not readers of sources like the New York Times which also reported on it.

We also have to ask whether it would make a difference. A significant number of people have become convinced that, as Rudy Giuliani (Trump's lawyer and current public spokesperson) recently said: "the truth is not the truth". Or, as Trump himself said: "Stick with us. Don't believe the crap you see from these people, the fake news. ... What you're seeing and what you're reading is not what's happening."

User avatar
Greta
Site Admin
Posts: 7353
Joined: December 16th, 2013, 9:05 pm

Re: The new importance of understanding what algorithms can and can't do

Post by Greta » September 2nd, 2018, 8:08 pm

It is an interesting change. It appears that truthfulness is increasingly no longer valued by significant portions of the community.

Trump has done a hundred things that would have surely ended any other presidency. This time it's different, driven by those who want to "break the system". To be fair, much of the system probably did need breaking, but the trouble is Trump is mostly just breaking the norms of presidential accountability and the natural environment.

Rather than draining the swamp - of tax evading billionaires and multinational companies - he just fed the biggest gators.

People are perplexed by the Trump bounce in the economy; it's a bubble. An upturn was inevitable because he's freed up a huge amount of irreplaceable natural resources. Resource-based companies are currently picking off the low hanging fruit.

The inevitable bursting of this Trump Bubble will happen when the easily obtained, long-protected resources, are gone. However, this guaranteed downturn will not be Trump's problem because the propagandist right wing media will blame it on whatever Democrat follows him into office.

I am finding Orwell's Winston Smith and Julia characters ever more relatable.

User avatar
JamesOfSeattle
Posts: 474
Joined: October 16th, 2015, 11:20 pm

Re: The new importance of understanding what algorithms can and can't do

Post by JamesOfSeattle » September 6th, 2018, 11:47 pm

Steve3007 wrote:
August 30th, 2018, 4:53 am
So, in this algorithmic search engine dominated world, is an understanding of what computers can and cannot do a basic educational requirement of informed citizenship?
I think the better educational requirement is to understand causality, and specifically, that correlation does not imply causation. (I.e., teach people how to think.) The Sun article notes a correlation between searches and left-leaning articles, and then jumps to the conclusion that the cause is an intentional action by the programmers.

*

Steve3007
Posts: 5568
Joined: June 15th, 2011, 5:53 pm
Favorite Philosopher: Eratosthenes
Location: UK

Re: The new importance of understanding what algorithms can and can't do

Post by Steve3007 » September 7th, 2018, 6:56 am

JamesOfSeattle wrote:I think the better educational requirement is to understand causality, and specifically, that correlation does not imply causation. (I.e., teach people how to think.) The Sun article notes a correlation between searches and left-leaning articles, and then jumps to the conclusion that the cause is an intentional action by the programmers.
Yes, the article is a particularly egregious example of very, very lazy journalism. In the example given at the top of the article, in which the journalist types "Brexit is" into Google and points out the various words that come up as being associated with those two words, and claims that as evidence of bias, it would have taken him mere seconds to look at some of the news articles that Google serves up as a result of this to find out why it suggests, for example, "over" as one of those words. It would then have been obvious that a news article containing a line like:

"The UK and EU are negotiating over Brexit."

demonstrates that the algorithm doesn't know that there are at least two distinct meanings for the word "over". This would have shown him that the algorithm is simply a dumb word association process and perhaps led him to reflect that to write an algorithm which can, without human intervention, understand the meanings of whole tracts of words in context in order to divine the political sympathies of their author is a whole different ball game.

User avatar
Greta
Site Admin
Posts: 7353
Joined: December 16th, 2013, 9:05 pm

Re: The new importance of understanding what algorithms can and can't do

Post by Greta » September 7th, 2018, 7:13 pm

JamesOfSeattle wrote:
September 6th, 2018, 11:47 pm
The Sun article notes a correlation between searches and left-leaning articles, and then jumps to the conclusion that the cause is an intentional action by the programmers.
The Sun was pretending to jump to a conclusion.

In truth, the Sun simply starts with a pre-existing aim for upstanding Godly conservatives citizens to reign in useless progressive leftists scum who threaten the profits of Murdoch's fossil fuel friends.

The issue is that The Sun's definition of "left" includes the neutral stance of simply following logic. For example, when nearly all experts have been saying for decades that more action is needed on reducing anthropogenic carbon output into the atmosphere then it's hardly "leftist" to work with expert advice, yet that is how The Sun would be scoring.

Post Reply