MAYDAY: System Failure

Algorithms maintain a consistent presence within our lives. We constantly encounter them through web searches, ASR devices, and even within our daily jobs. In many ways, algorithms are considered useful and can be considered maps for finishing and processing tasks.

Rates of Reaction 1What turns useful algorithms into dangerous applications, is when they become embeded into our logical thinking and problem solving skills, affecting the way we conceptualize and react to situations. When it comes to our wellbeing, it’s important to understand that we have the right to say no to the restrictions of any algorithm.

We do this, one, by recognizing that these systems fail, and that they are not mistake proof, and two, restricting access to our personal data through the self consciousness of its release.

When it comes to failing algorithms, I have personally witnessed hundreds on a day to day basis. As I mentioned in a previous post, this past summer I worked at Amazon, studying and transcribing Alexa’s data intake. Myself and hundreds of others, listened to demanded requests of Alexa and determined whether she gave a appropriate human response as well as a correct answer per request. If she failed, we had look at how she processed the information given, pinpoint her errors, and document it for the next team. Let me just say Alexa is not perfect. In fact, I can confidently say that any human reaction or understanding, is far more intelligent than her own. She failed miserably at the most simplest requests, but yet people worldwide, trust her with bank accounts, personal information, memberships online and even 24/7 access to their homes. Like Alexa’s failures, within We Are Data by John Cheney- Lippold exemplified how the incompetence within these strict algorithms were severe enough to cost a man his life. Mark Hemmings is a single man, but his experience and deadly outcome represents a colossal amount of people within the confines of today’s authoritarian structure.

privacyJohn B. Thompson believes in a idea where there is a need for transformation within “the nature of the private”, describing this change that “now consists more and more of despatialized realm of information and symbolic content over which the individual believes she can and should be able to exercise control, regardless of where this individual and this information might be physically located.” We must acknowledge our ability to control, and to do this, we must be able to identify where we lost it.

The disproportion of power by systems , thrives off our negligence to identify them. As stated in We Are Data, we have the ability to confuse these systems, by sending them off onto different paths, or in other words “obfuscation”. We need to take back the right to our privacy, or at least our right to identities. By corresponding to systemic injustices, we can take back some control. We take control by finding ways to be more private within the networking world. Yes, in many ways, privacy has completely died within the 21st century, but, we still have the power to release and deliver information, which can mislead many categorizing factors.

“Privacy happens when a user suppresses the potential signals in her data with an abundance of meaningless noise, such as a diverse group of friends sharing a single supermarket loyalty card in order”

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