The Black Box Society: New machine age of algorithms and bots behind the scenes of corporate America

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Frank Pasquale’s new book, “The Black Box Society: The Secret Algorithms That Control Money and Information,” covers ways algorithms affect our lives in unseen ways. A few excerpts from a recent interview with the author:

… runaway algorithms … take on very important decisions …. autonomous weapon systems could accidentally trigger skirmishes or even wars, based on misinterpreted signals.

… it’s not only – and often not primarily – the algorithms, or even the programmers of algorithms, who are to blame …. “data-driven” algorithms that are supposedly objective and serving customers and users, are in fact biased and working only to boost the fortunes of an elite.

 Most critically, the results of these algorithms can appear to be natural, spontaneous events:

… people consider being on top of Twitter’s trending topics, or Google or Amazon search results, an important bragging right. But if these results are relatively easy to manipulate, or are really dictated by the corporate interests of the big Internet firms, they should be seen less as the “voice of the people” than as a new form of marketing. Or, to use Rob Walker’s term, “murketing.”

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