This is always a tough one, recognizing we all have a singular perspective and may not see things from every angle. Sometimes we rely on listening to another’s perspective when we are unable, or unwilling to move from where we are standing to see and hear it for ourselves. In this age of so much accessible information, I can understand how easy it is to just fall into to the practice of believing what someone else says is real or true. Except in this world of easily accessible information, it is also way too easy to manipulate someone by feeding them information that supports and perpetuates the bias one already has…especially on the internet, TV and social media.
Algorithms, simply put, are a set of instructions that when followed step by step solve a problem or figure something out. Something like instructions to tie your shoes, or follow a recipe or finding a book in a library are all algorithms. When computers have algorithms built into software, they work via input and output and build on reactions and expectations when you do A, B or C to get a result. It may seem weird that you purchase something or read something online, and then all of a sudden you are inundated in various apps by things that are linked to that purchase or interest. Your interests and biases are tracked and algorithms are built to recognize and link you to your desired result. Many algorithms are built to recognize and cater to a person’s desired result based on reactions to previous input by the user.
I know there are plenty of knowledgeable computer people out there who would snort at my limited expression of what an algorithm is and how it works, but for the purposes of today, I want people to understand why their world view is the way it is, and the potential dangers of it. Like I said in the beginning of this post, we all have one perspective and often rely on others to share their opinions to help expand that one perspective. It is the process of seeking, that can either lead us closer to a larger truth or just enhance the perspective that keeps us seeing what we want that world view to be that is important. For example, lets say a person despises vegetables and by their input on the computer and perhaps social groups, that particular attribute is compounded by being bombarded with information about others who despise vegetables, and even more information you click on as to why vegetables are not important, or even dangerous. Your perspective is more deeply embedded and you soon question other’s perspectives about the worth and necessity of vegetables and their worth as proven untrue by all the many pieces of information in your possession.
The weakness of the the algorithm, is that it doesn’t take much to prove the veracity of any post or perspective. It is the act of inputting requests for checking the veracity of any one perspective that broadens the output of the algorithm to a variety of different perspectives. Let’s say you look for a great recipe for a “great and easy cake” Personally, I would actually try said recipe to see if it was great and or easy before I pass it on to someone else with my endorsement. I have tried certain recipes and they were horrible! (I have a ton of food allergies and am always on the watch for replacements for my favorite traditions options). Just because a recipe says its easy and great doesn’t make it so. I have been inundated with recipes for alternatives ingredients described as the best, when I actually put them to the test, many are not.
The same does not work for information these days about so many deeply felt beliefs. People read something and pass it on as true without missing a beat, just because it appeals to their own personal perspective and justifies a bias they are rooted in, or maybe unaware they even have. A few weeks ago, I was talking to a friend about something read online about a school district putting kitty litter in the bathrooms for kids who are furries identifying as cats, and addressing teachers as cats. Now, in that moment I thought that was the stupidest thing I had ever heard. But when I researched on line, the very story caused so much trouble for a real school district the superintendent not only had to address it, but spent an inordinate amount of time diffusing it. THERE WAS NO THERE, THERE. I have learned that the idea of “identifying” as something other than male or female, creates such terror, that there are people who maliciously take advantage by using algorithms to bring people down rabbit holes and increase their fear.
That is why before I commit to seeing and hearing another’s perspective on whether THERE IS REALLY A THERE, THERE. I get out of my comfort zone and check it out for myself. In the process, I’ve not only seen and listened to people with a different identifiers, even furries to see they are nothing like how they are described and defined online. That is not to say that individuals can’t be a reprehensible example of any given group, that is just to be expected because they are human. It is the commitment to the truth that I am most concerned about when it comes to succumbing to our limited perspectives. Who you listen to matters. And as a final caveat…just because you read it on the internet or saw it on TV, doesn’t mean its true, you have to work a little bit to find out first. And Jesus did say there would be plenty of false prophets dressed up in sheep’s clothing who underneath are ravenous wolves.