algorithms, rules, authorship, ethics, literacy
Algorithms control what we see, what we read, what think. Our Facebook feed -- increasingly the place where most people learn about the world -- is driven by code, which reacts and fine tunes itself to the behavior it observes.
Our world is increasingly built out of software. Money, for one easy example, exists as algorithmic flows, from ATM networks to credit ratings. And not in the sense of "cybercurrency" undergirded by blockchains and networks. But actual olde timey fiat currency, which rests on a foundation of markets, which are themselves pure code. High speed trading, where computers trade with other computers based on algorithmic signals, means exchanges now happen before humans know what is happening. And as the code gets more complex, interacting with other complex code systems, market exchanges can happen for reasons that aren't even fully understood by the human coders.
As was written in Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs (aka SICP), the seminal textbook of programming taught for years at MIT, “A computer language is not just a way of getting a computer to perform operations … it is a novel formal medium for expressing ideas about methodology. Thus, programs must be written for people to read, and only incidentally for machines to execute.” A great program is a letter from current you to future you or to the person who inherits your code. A generous humanistic document.
- What Is Code?
Resources and News:
- Discrimination by algorithm: scientists devise test to detect AI bias - Guardian, 19 Dec 2016
- The End of Code - Wired, 17 May 2016
- Newsweek: Computer Programming is a Dying Art - Newsweek, 6 June 2014
- A Call for Bots of Conviction - Mark Sample, 30 May 2014