Man vs. Machine / by Scott Smith

2011 has been a tumultuous year, and it is ending more unsteadily than it began. The US heads into an increasingly surreal election cycle, European economies threaten to come unstitched, Asia strains after years of rapid growth, and the Arab Spring has changed to long, hot summer and now autumn of Occupation. My November entry for Discontinuities on Current Intelligence addresses the growing rift between social needs and number crunching, and how this is beginning to manifest in political shifts. An excerpt: 

“Our current economic, political and technological conflicts center around the amassing of enormous amounts of data, which fuel computer perceptions and projections for how the real world is behaving. The TSA, the PRC, American Express, Wal-Mart, Bank of America—the list of organizations converting human behavior and needs into data points for modeling, upselling or interdiction continues to grow. The weight of all this analysis, the codification and commodification of daily life, continuously tracking attitudes and beliefs, actions and interactions, is in part what drives the discontented onto the streets. We’ve only just begun to see the society-wide impacts of algorithms gone wild. Data spillages, robo-signing, and flash crashes are just the start.”

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