More of what you order me to do, please

Posted by Unspector Blog on Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Before the algorithms, it was even worse

Yesterday I wrote about the shortcomings of simple recommendation algorithms. Today I want to look at what has come before:

When you chose to buy, listen to, read or watch something in “the olden days”, without algorithmic support, you either needed to be knowledgeable about the topic in the first place, or consult with an expert. Additionally you needed to consider the physically available stock at the location you chose to visit.

The store clerk and the radio host became the gatekeepers of knowledge, while the purchasing agent or the program director became the gatekeepers of available options. Today consumers tend to influence producers directly (even if they themselves are influenced by algorithms). But in the past a small group of individuals influenced producers much more than consumers, simply by not knowing or choosing not to disclose information and not offering options, which could have been available.

Progress only flows in one direction. The future can be delayed or distributed unevenly, but it cannot be stopped. Simple algorithms are better than the human gatekeepers that have come before.