Handing Over Our Thinking to Algorithms

I was struck by something Lukianoff and Haidt said in The Coddling of the American Mind when they describe the response to Rebecca Tuvel’s article (“In Defense of Transracialism”) in Hypatia: “It is striking  how many of the critics’ complaints refer not to Tuvel’s arguments but to her word choices” (p105).  At first, I thought, with a grimace, that’s because so many people can’t understand arguments .

But recalling the proliferation of demands that people’s twitter accounts be suspended, I think there might be something else going on: people are using algorithms, which can identify individual words or phrases, but not arguments, to determine what’s acceptable and what’s objectionable.

And that’s scarey.  Just one of the many scarey things about turning over our lives to various versions of artificial intelligence.  Algorithms and so forth are only as good as their creators, and I suggest that those creators, IT (Business/Computer Studies) graduates, are not the sharpest pencils in the box.

(A predecessor point along the same spectrum: customer service departments that require their reps to follow a script instead of allowing them to think for themselves like human beings.  We all know how frustrating that is.  Just a few degrees more frustrating than the also-predecessor automated answering machine menus.)



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