But people are mainly aware of algorithms in connection with social media and the internet.
The content that appears on our Facebook pages, our Google searches, our Spotify playlists and our Amazon shopping cart is all managed and influenced by algorithms. Although algorithms know a lot about us, we really don’t know much about them. And this is because the precision with which Facebook chooses the factors that influence the Google and Facebook ranking algorithms is deliberately kept top secret. That said, it appears that the famous “like” button has a greater hand to play than previously thought. One “like” and the algorithm learns a little more about what we like and how that information can be used. And this is something that can be more than a little disconcerting, to take Amazon as an example: the platform appears to be omniscient when it comes to our wishes and preferences. Amazon’s algorithms know what we want before we do, and gives us the chance to get our hands on it with a single click. And – obviously – it’s not just for our benefit: the algorithm has the power to make Amazon rich beyond all imagination by using our data to manage things like dynamic pricing, in some cases changing prices from one hour to the next.