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black box society

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  • black box society, n.

    The Guardian, 6 December 2015:

    So far, so understandable. But there is a direction of travel here – one that is taking us towards what an American legal scholar, Frank Pasquale, has christened the <b>“black box society”</b>. You might think that the subtitle – “the secret algorithms that control money and information” – says it all, except that it’s not just about money and information but increasingly about most aspects of contemporary life, at least in industrialised countries. For example, we know that Facebook algorithms can influence the moods and the voting behaviour of the service’s users. And we also know that Google’s search algorithms can effectively render people invisible. In some US cities, algorithms determine whether you are likely to be stopped and searched in the street. For the most part, it’s an algorithm that decides whether a bank will seriously consider your application for a mortgage or a loan. And the chances are that it’s a machine-learning or network-analysis algorithm that flags internet or smartphone users as being worthy of further examination. Uber drivers may think that they are working for themselves, but in reality they are managed by an algorithm. And so on.

    December 28, 2015