29 Oct 2016

Who controls the algorithms?

From This Way Up, 12:50 pm on 29 October 2016
Pedro Domingos

Pedro Domingos Photo: (Supplied)

The algorithm has become a central part of our digital lives. It's basically a set of rules that calculates information and then provides us with instructions or recommendations automatically.

So when you put cat into Google, it's an algorithm that trawls through millions of web pages to search out information about this small, typically furry, carnivorous mammal.

Every time you interact with a computer today you're teaching a system a little bit more about yourself, and over time this digital model of you becomes valuable property in the hands of commercial enterprises who are trying to provide you with services, or sell you stuff. 

Pedro Domingos is a professor of computer science and engineering at the University of Washington. His book 'The Master Algorithm: How the Quest for the Ultimate Learning Machine Will Remake Our World' (Basic Books) is a warning about who is controlling the algorithms that are so central to so many parts of modern life. 

The Master Algorithm cover

The Master Algorithm cover Photo: (Supplied)