Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Numbers Or Friends: Who Do You Trust More?

Image source: wildapricot.net

Cold analysis or subjective recommendation? Computer algorithm or human intuition? I don’t get to wander the aisles of a library, or seek advice from resident experts on what makes for good reading, but I remain unconvinced that an algorithm will ever be my preferred advisor over a recommendation from someone I know, who knows me.

The question being posed today, is would you take an algorithm’s recommendation over an expert, or friend? Algorithms are marketing tools. They’re up-sellers. They judge our interests based on past behavior and suggest similar content. Problem is they have no personal stories or memories to draw on. Their recommendations are somewhat reflective of your own taste. If you’ve been searching for books on travel to Wales, guess what books Amazon will start recommending to you? It won’t tell you to rebook your flight and head off into the sun.

Aside from the fact I think we need to maintain as much human contact as possible in an increasingly digitized world, asking the opinions of others comes with the added benefit of broadening our horizons. Given how heavily monitored our online presence is, with algorithms shaping everything we’re exposed to, including ads, there is a risk that we wind up living in these little bubbles where the only new ideas we’re exposed to are the ones that already fit with our world view. Academics call it confirmation bias.

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