Category Archives: Ethics and values

Internet, Power and Semantics

Millions of links are shared on Twitter each day.

A fraction of these links end up in my timeline, shared (and sometimes authored) by the accounts I follow. Most of the time, they point me to great articles I might have missed otherwise.

Below you can find links to some of these articles.

I have selected them for their originality and relevance. They have all been brought to my attention via Twitter and provide crucial insights into various issues  related to the internet:

I urge you to read them now. All of them.

Those who don’t understand algorithms…

Don’t be scared if you don’t know what an algorithm is. This article is for you, so please read on.

If you know what an algorithm is but mainly from a mathematical viewpoint, you may skip the following paragraph, but please read on below, too.

About algorithms… and human action

Picture ‘Lamp Flowchart’ by Wapcaplet, via Wikimedia Commons

In a nutshell, an algorithms is the standardized function by which an action is executed – the important word being “standardized“. Because: the action to be executed is defined very clearly, and the function must state unambiguously in what circumstances and under what conditions this action has to be executed (or not).

This may sound very theoretical, but we all have already been confronted with a multitude of algorithmic processes.

Retrieving money from a cash machine is a typical, rather simple example: the machine has a certain number of predefined “actions” it can do (ask for your PIN code, hand out a certain amount of money, show account balance, swallow your card etc.) and its actions depend on your input, which are “conditions” for the machine.

Of course every action that is computer-based is algorithmic, i.e. implemented within different “layers” of programming, all boiled down to the basic electronic signals 0 and 1.

But no need for computers: actually, every procedure guided by a flowchart is algorithmic, too. Everything that is standardized. Everything that is automated.

“Algorithm” means no room for interpretation. And no choice. Continue reading