How do we survive in an “algorithmic” society?

  In the Japanese animation work “Psycho-Measurer”, the society at that time could analyze what kind of career each person could pursue in the future, so as to “educate them according to their aptitude”, and at the same time, it could also analyze which people would become criminals, and then take precautionary measures to conduct investigations on them. eradicate. Such a social “vision” may also be realized through “algorithms” in our future. Today, our search history, shopping history and even exercise and health data are all collected and analyzed by major platforms. Information for each individual’s different preferences is pushed to us. We have no secrets in the face of algorithms, and perhaps the web and machines know us better than our partners.
  This also means that the power of technology companies and the technical elite has never been greater. If an online account is banned, our real life will also be greatly affected; the online services we purchase may be changed at will, such as adding advertisements, paying extra, data being sold, and so on. Jamie Susskind (UK academic, author and practising barrister), author of “The Power of Algorithms: How Humans Live Together”, points out that technology has exploded in the past century, but politics remains “classical” and future-oriented Social norms, laws, and philosophical thinking are all very scarce, and science fiction is much more useful for thinking about the future than existing political science and political philosophy. Jamie looks at the humanities and sciences at the same time, asking and trying to answer the question for human beings now and in the future: In a society increasingly “controlled” by artificial intelligence and algorithms, how can we ensure the practice of free and just social ideals? What are we to guard against? What are the possibilities for future politics?
The present and future of technology

  The intelligence and beauty of Disco Diffusion, the latest AI drawing software developed by Google, has attracted the attention of many people. Some people are thinking that maybe simple business design and illustration needs in the future can be directly completed by AI. Previously, the most concerned artificial intelligence technology may be autonomous driving, which has been used on a large scale. Although it once caused a lot of controversy, more and more people have gradually become accustomed to “freeing their hands” at certain moments. , leaving the driving to the car itself.
  Artificial intelligence (AI) emerged in 1943, and today it is one of the hottest and most important fields of research. Its technology in language recognition, translation, writing news or earnings reports, etc. has been gradually applied in daily life, penetrating into various fields such as medical care, law, sports, and finance. In many ways, AI has even surpassed human professionals. For example, in various chess games, artificial intelligence has defeated the most outstanding humans; researchers at Oxford University have invented an artificial intelligence with an accuracy rate of 93%” By comparison, professional lip-reading translators were only 60 percent correct. Although many technologies seem to be only people’s imaginations, such as robots replacing doctors to perform surgical operations on us, artificial intelligence is indeed rapidly integrating or refreshing our lives.

Image made with Disco Diffusion

  The most important subfield of artificial intelligence today is machine learning. If AI can already surpass humans, it seems reasonable to leave the task of “creating new AI” to AI itself. Jamie Susskind writes: “After a certain point, ‘we no longer need to program computers’, but ‘they program themselves’.” Another technology that is easily overlooked It’s “computing power” – the ability of a computer chip to process data. “The average smartphone today has more computing power than the Apollo navigation computer that sent Armstrong to the moon.”
  The technology to capture, record and store data is also improving. “If a book were to print the data that Google processes in a day, its height would be greater than half the distance between the Earth and the moon.” Austrian privacy activist Max Schrems asked to see data stored by Facebook about him, according to The Power of Algorithms. , which resulted in a 1,222-page document that included information he had long since deleted from the platform.

The Psycho-Measurer poster

  Websites and devices are acquiring and storing massive amounts of information every day, not only that, but real objects are also recording and storing your information, such as car sensors, which upload car performance data to manufacturers; GPS tracking records at all times our whereabouts. Human actions, words, actions, relationships, emotions and beliefs will increasingly leave permanent or semi-permanent digital marks.
  Today, most people have accepted the irresistible fact that their online footprints are monitored by major shopping, music, and personalized recommendation websites, but in the future, when our lives are more and more integrated with artificial intelligence and algorithms, it is very likely that We will be “monitored” in all aspects. Imagine our “smart refrigerators” that automatically lock when we open the door for a cake late at night, or yell at us “don’t eat it”; “smart curtains” automatically adjust the light in the room; even machines can detect our emotions, which These eyes contain emotions, and by analyzing movements, tones, you can determine what is the relationship between two people, and so on.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

  In the novel “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep”, the prototype of the movie “Blade Runner”, people control or achieve different emotions by taking drugs. People who refuse to take drugs and choose to regulate their emotions by themselves will be regarded as aliens. If technology can choose the most suitable light, food, exercise and even people for us to interact with, do we still need to reflect and control our “self”? Can we still generate demand beyond what machines are assigned to us?
To master technology is to master power

  Algorithms and technologies are rapidly integrating and changing our lives, but there are very few restrictions and controls on them, which is very dangerous.
  First of all, technology itself is not ethical, it faithfully presents the face of the most people in society with whom it interacts, for example, typing “gay” in Google’s search box will automatically be followed by “why the sound is always weird” . This is not because Google searches are gay, but because many people who are biased against homosexuality search for this question, and Google’s algorithm automatically presents high-frequency search questions to all users.

  Technology does not take into account moral or educational needs, nor does it sift through information. In the past, authoritative media and “professional filtering” reporters, writers, and editors almost determined what kind of information the public would receive. But nowadays, the information presented to people based on algorithm recommendations often only follows the law of “traffic”: the messages with the most likes and the most comments are often seen by more people. We are already familiar with the way of attracting traffic by “initiating war”, and this has affected politics. In political propaganda, politicians usually don’t care whether some remarks are anti-intellectual or wrong, as long as they are sufficiently provocative, they will will be spread.
  In some major natural or man-made disaster events, although the Internet allows us to receive first-hand information, we also really appreciate the importance of professional investigative reporters’ screening and credible first-hand reports.
  In addition, the nature of the algorithm to push according to our “likes” makes people more and more closed in the small circle of the same opinion. The harder it is to be issued. “If you know that criticizing a politician will bring your bar into a terrible silence, or start a ‘Twitter storm’ on social media with personal attacks on you, then you’re afraid that when you’re expressing your criticism, you Think twice before doing it.” Finally, if some information and keywords are blocked and banned using algorithms, the impact will also be huge.

  Algorithms are shaping the way we (or the next generation) see the world by sifting through information, but this may only be the beginning. In the future, we may be like programmed NPCs (characters whose actions and words are set in the game), who can only make action choices within a certain range.
  If you want to share a song or a TV show with a friend, but the friend is not a member of the site, you can’t play it; the car may be set to not accelerate while in self-driving mode. Former U.S. President Barack Obama sent 25 classic American films to former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, but when Brown returned to London, he found the films could not be played on British DVD players: “The ban has been ordered by its manufacturer and distributor Businesses write code into DVDs to protect their commercial interests and enforce the powers conferred by copyright law, which is called digital rights management (DRM)” – two of the most “powerful” people in the world can’t break through the algorithm set rules.
  The “mandatory” of the algorithm has initially emerged: we cannot make choices outside the prescribed range. The point of digital technology is that it can only operate according to the code that writes it. It’s not the same as the law, where people can break the law (albeit at the risk of being punished), but most people can’t break the code.
  In ancient society, severe punishment was used to intimidate people, but in modern times, “the ‘inevitability’ of punishment has replaced the intensity of punishment.” With the strengthening of the control of state law enforcement agencies, people know that breaking the law is likely to be caught, so they avoid breaking the law ; and in the future, laws involving code “will force humans to be unable to break the law, rather than simply punish after the fact.”

Jamie Susskind

  In the past, only some official agencies could ask us to do things, but now, various online platforms are “forcing” us: if we don’t click “agree to the terms of service”, we can’t use it; platforms can sell all the personal data they collect; they can Change its services (such as adding ads or asking for additional payments, or even banning certain accounts). People can’t protest against this, they can only choose to passively accept or stop using the software.
  Today, the government can require some companies to provide information about certain users. Google has received more than 10,000 government requests for information and fulfilled 93 percent of them. In the future, when algorithms are further integrated into our lives, can websites help monitor the activities of terrorists and pedophiles and report them proactively? Can the police directly obtain the criminal’s smart door lock password? If our friend commits a felony, will we be “targeted” for chatting with him?
future-oriented politics

  Jamie Susskind argues that while technology has exploded in our society, progress in the humanities, especially political theory, has lagged far behind. Those elites and capital who master technology are wielding unprecedented power. How should our political organizational structure better adapt to the development of technology?
  More tangible and more urgent is to oppose the monopoly of big tech companies and ensure that people have multiple choices about which platforms to use. “The best way to maintain freedom is to make sure people can move their code between systems as they like.” But today’s web platforms are extremely dependent on the number of users: if only a small number of users use Google, the platform is worthless . The accumulation of users in the early stage of the platform’s establishment is very important and difficult, and it also inevitably contributes to the breeding of monopoly. Nearly three-quarters of industry concentration has risen over the past 20 years… Nearly 80% of mobile social media traffic is run on what was once Facebook’s platform, and Google’s mobile software Android accounts for more than three-quarters of smartphones Alphabet (Google’s parent company), Amazon, and Facebook are worth roughly the same amount as Canada’s gross national product.

In my country, the usage rate of WeChat software is very high.

  Capital will continue to create new capital and accumulate itself. The resources in the hands of industry giants allow them to have multiple means to consolidate their position. Therefore, relevant anti-monopoly laws need to be improved urgently for technology companies.
  In my country, the WeChat platform integrates various functions such as chatting, video, payment, reading articles, shopping, and booking tickets, and WeChat can be used as an account to log in to many other websites, which is convenient, but if the WeChat account is banned, it will also be It will bring great inconvenience to life.

  Algorithms should not be unilaterally controlled by tech companies, and should allow for more “personalization”. In the future, more and more people will be able to write code, and some software should allow anyone to modify the code as he or she sees fit.
  In addition, tech companies’ data transactions compensate individuals for far less than the value of their data, as if factory owners are exploiting workers’ labor—tech companies are exploiting the value of our personal information. “Facebook users have become the largest group of unpaid workers in history.”

Tech companies are exploiting the value of our personal information.

  At the same time, technology will gradually replace human beings to engage in mental or physical activities. More people choose intelligent voice transcription instead of hiring stenographers, and choose translation software instead of professional translation; in the future, artificial intelligence may gradually replace reporters, rental Drivers, financial officers, etc. There will be a lot of people facing unemployment by then. Based on such concerns, the proposal of “Universal Basic Income” once attracted the attention of many people. In this philosophy, income and work do not need to be linked, and human society is full of co-created things, especially in the age of algorithms, where people contribute data without getting paid. People should have the right to enjoy the prosperity brought by modern technology without having to sell their labor force at a low price, and no one wants to buy it? Maybe it’s time to move from working for work to working for creativity. People are often more creative and capable of doing things for interest, community, or peer recognition than what money can provide. However, at the operational level, the feasibility of the “universal basic income” still needs to be demonstrated and improved, and it is only an ideal life vision at present.

The sadness of modern people is that having a job may not be enough to support a “life”.

  Some people propose to strengthen the state’s power to supervise capital. For example, special personnel should be required to review the algorithm operation mechanism of technology companies; racism, fear and other injustices in the supervision of algorithm push should be corrected manually. It has been suggested that tech companies should be managed in the form of “usufruct”, a system of power generally used in the use of land, where the state owns the land, but the use rights can be sold to individuals; rather than being fully nationalized, it allows companies to retain Most of the profits, while reducing monopoly, allows small companies to use the technology owned by large companies at the beginning of their startups. But beware that this move will cause the expansion of state power.
  Scientific and technological progress has brought many challenges to human society, and it has also given more possibilities. Whether and how to deal with it, this political answer may become the key to human survival in the future.