Looking for something to keep you warm with burning questions on a cold January day? I loved this episode of Vox’s The Ezra Klein show with Anil Dash, who is an entrepreneur and activist in the “tech industry” (as even he is loath to label it).
“The algorithm is veiling the fact that it’s still the people at that company making the choices. And when YouTube chooses to show disturbing content, as related videos, to my 7-year-old son, that is a choice that people at YouTube are making, and people at Google and Alphabet are making. They say, ‘The algorithm did it.’ But who made the algorithm? You could make it not do that. And I know you can do that because, for example, if it were a copyright-protected version of a Beyoncé song, you’d instantly stop it from being shared. So the algorithm is a set of choices about values and about what you want to invest in. Technology has values that are not neutral.” [emphasis mine]Anil Dash
That last sentence came up again and again- it was fascinating to hear Dash talk about some of his companies, how what started out as exciting, disruptive tech concepts quickly overexposed weaknesses and outgrew the boundaries originally envisioned.
As I navigate the tech, media, and network-creating tools at my disposal every day, the questions brought up in this episode follow me around. How often do we assign neutrality, objectivity, permanency to a tool, only to forget the very human cause and effects?
Bonus points if you listen to the podcast and then write about it in a way that your social media algorithm of choice pushes to a maximum number of your followers.
p.s. extra credit is checking out the oldie but a goodie Dash article about the futility of a working umbrella definition of “tech industry”, and the repercussions.