Wednesday, April 05, 2017


Here's an interesting new word (new to me, anyhow) that popped up on WordSpy a while back: Algocracy (n): rule or government by algorithm*.

I hadn't thought about it before, but our lives are governed more and more by the results of algorithms - broadly defined as "step-by-step procedures for solving a problem or accomplishing some end, especially by a computer."

Our federal government has become an algocracy. Both of our political parties use algorithms to parse voter registration data and combine it with the use of sophisticated mapping technology to support the despicable process of gerrymandering, by which a party in power seeks to maximize the borders of Congressional districts to its advantage. That's why the so-called "Freedom Caucus" will be able to strangle government forever ... none of them will ever be voted out of their gerrymandered seats unless it's by someone even more intransigent than they are.

Big business is an algocracy as well. Specialized data mining and interpretation firms hoover up vast quantities of data and use algorithms to package and sell it to those who want to tailor their products or messages to specific audiences ... a much easier practice now that the GOP has empowered ISPs to freely sell your online browsing histories**. Consider the junk mail you receive (both online and via snail mail), the trash robo-calls you get, and the ads that appear on your browser as you surf the Internet - it's all designed and targeted by firms that collect and study information about you and use algorithms to sift it into useful guidelines for the delivery of advertising aimed specifically at you***.

Is this a good thing? I guess it depends.

For purposes of government, and specifically for the partisan manipulation of voting districts, I think it's terrible. For purposes of business, each of us has to make our own decision ... there is some value to having businesses be able to make us aware of products and services in which we might be interested, but that value comes at the cost of a loss of our privacy. I'm sure some people are okay with that, but I'm not.

But like it or not, the algocracy is here to stay. Better keep close tabs on your browser history.

Have a good day, by the numbers.

More thoughts tomorrow.


* You may have thought an algorithm was a song sung by a former vice president, but you'd have been wrong.

** “Any Member of Congress who thinks this bill is a good idea ought to release their personal browsing history to their constituents. It's only fair. (Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN))

*** For instance, if you belong to AARP, chances are you'll get a lot of ads for Medicare supplemental insurance, prescription drugs, and long-term care insurance ... and funeral services and cemetery plots for when those don't work for you.


eViL pOp TaRt said...

A danger result from this can be in the form of inhibiting our freedom to browse, even if it's simply to avoid getting a lot of pesky ads.
I get a surfeit of clothing ads.

As for gerrymandering,that practice is despicable.

Chuck Bear said...

An algoracy would be a government strictly with well-defined rules!

Mike said...

Gerrymandering has been struck down in a few states. (But not fixed yet.) Maybe in another 30 or 40 or 100 years the rest of the states gerrymandered districts will be undone.

Deena said...

Isn't a constitutional government a form of algocracy?

allenwoodhaven said...

wow. What a unfortunately excellent word.