Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Algorithms and Losing Control

On my way to the gym this morning I listened to yet another story on NPR about the FBI/Apple controversy surrounding accessing the iPhone of the San Bernardino terrorists. Quick synopsis - Apple refused, FBI found a 3rd party who was able to create their own algorithm to hack into the phone, FBI dropped case against Apple. But - everyone is worried.  Will the FBI share this code-breaking algorithm with other law enforcement? Will we all be vulnerable now to some outside person accessing the privacy of our smartphones?!

Legal issues aside, what I find interesting is the fact that an algorithm unlocked the information. Or algorithms created the 'locked phone' in the first place. As a math person, it's always  fascinating to think about how algorithms create so much of what is around us, and while I don't understand it myself, there are people out there who do.  People who can create a code to break into a locked phone. Or an algorithm to pick stocks or predict weather.  It's really incredible. A little mind boggling.

With this on my mind, I was excited to actually find a Ted Talk specifically on algorithms and the world around us. Seemed sort of ironic - though, it was probably a Google algorithm that matched my search of the NPR story to other stories and resources that contain algorithms.  Spooky!! In fact - the talk, by Kevin Slavin, addresses this very fact - that algorithms and coding are responsible for some of our decisions (or many).  So - are we in control or are the algorithms controlling us?

Watch the Ted Talk and freak yourself out too!

1 comment:

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