Algorithm society

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    ‘Now, if only there were one right now that can tell us where we can find a new Health Secretary to lead the fight vs. COVID-19!’

    HAVE you ever thought about it? Could it be possible that some sophisticated software out there knows more about you and me than even we do?

    Pre-COVID, I was engaged in this orgy of online shopping thanks to Jeff Bezos and Amazon. The beauty of getting books through Amazon was that I could get whatever title I wanted, a new release or an old one, and have it in my hands within a week provided I were willing to pay the price. Not only that, Amazon worked like some sort of card catalog, telling me which other authors had written about the topic I was interested in – or what other books had been written by the author I was looking up.

    As a result I almost forgot the sadness I first felt when Erehwon bookstore closed, or when Popular Bookstore lost its spot on Doroteo Jose, or when Goodwill and Alemars bid us goodbye. Never mind if National is more like a general store these days than a real bookstore, or if Fully Booked does not have enough branches. Jeff’s Amazon is there, 24/7 for almost any title you need. Heck, I can throw in a piece of clothing or a sleeve of yellow golf balls into my order as well!

    And because I am such a regular shopper, Amazon can guess what interests me, book titles or topics as well as shirts or shoes or gadgets and all. And be ready with suggestions.

    Imagine a future not far away when an Amazon will help you make your choice at a polling station? It would have algorithmically assessed your likes and dislikes as against the personality, biography and track record of politicians and will come up with recommendees for you, graded from the most “compatible” on a slew of issues to the least?

    Imagine too what this will mean to those in government – they could have at their fingertips almost everything about you – and so be able to read you as you walk through a door.

    Multiply that a million times and the ability for someone – Big Brother? – to efficiently administer (control?) society will seem far easier to do.

    Is that something we would like? Is that something that is inevitable? Is there a way to put safeguards so that we will not be open books that just anyone and everyone can read?

    Less ominously, will algorithms determine how a boy and girl (or whatever the combination may be) eventually fall in love and get married? Will an app on a phone tell one of them that the other is 84% compatible, that the chances of a marriage surviving the first ten years is over 80% and that the risk of fighting over what K Drama to watch is “low to very low”? Could it also anticipate the health issues potential offspring can have given the genetic makeup of each party – which the app knows as it has access to the latest medical test results!

    Most importantly could the app tell how well the future groom and bride will get along with their respective in-laws?

    We just don’t realize it yet but our lives are more and more falling under the spell of algorithms. Amazon. Waze. Spotify. Agoda. And all those shopping and, yes, even dating apps. Porn sites too!

    Now, if only there were one right now that can tell us where we can find a new Health Secretary to lead the fight vs. COVID-19!

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