If tech tries to define an algorithm for society who owns the judgement call?


I’ve been hatching plans. Not new, news I know. But this time I’ve been doing it with someone who is far deeper into the rights of humanity than I am and it has sparked some seriously mind (and algorithm) bending questions.

Here’s one to jump straight into the deep end with; As we move towards Web 5.0 who’s thinking about Humanity 5.0?

We’re so busy defining what Web 5.0 is (Sir Tim Berners-Lee offers an interesting view in this Ted Talk) and trying to perceive what an; open, connected intelligent and potentially emotional web is, we’ve kinda lost track of the fact that the emotions of people will be read, understood and…

And what?


We are at a crossroad as technology and humanity begin to converge. As such, we have some fundamental choices to make in order to ensure the future of our collective society is shaped and created by us, not for us.

Drew, I agree with your ending statement in your last post but I challenge humanity’s laziness – I think that our acceptance of the ease that technology, and the connectivity that comes with it, could be the underlying issue here.

When was the last time you navigated somewhere new without Google maps?

When was the last time you ordered takeout without Deliveroo?

Booked a flight without SkyScanner, an AirBnb oh wait …

Google it, Uber it, Airbnb it. Everyday phrases that are today’s version of ‘hoovering’ and all sophisticated platforms that answer today’s demanding needs with ease, therefore raising the expectations of an already expectant audience.   

And that poses another question: In a world increasingly built on algorithms, where is the algorithm for society?

If we should be stepping back and defining what we want these technologies to do to serve us, they first need to know us. Better yet they need to understand us.

According to the WEF ‘Future of Jobs’ Report 2016, society will change more in the next 25 years than it has in the last 200 due to rapid progression in both technology and connectivity. We’re facing the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR) and the perfect storm of convergence which, according to Moore’s Law WILL get exponentially faster. But humans are not exponential like technology, further, we can really only exponentially do things better and faster with technology. EEK. And there we go again.

Another question: Who, or what is writing the rules?

In an earlier post, we explored who is responsible between drone and human when an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) programmed with an AI written by a human kills a civilian during an air strike. We had more people reach out and say humans than technology.

But, algorithms shape our thoughts and influence our actions in ways we don’t even realise, the recent deception by Cambridge Analytica shows the empowerment an algorithm can have on our collective.

This article draws the parallels between the many algorithms that help run our lives, summed up nicely in the following paragraph:

‘In short, the way we go about our lives mimics the way we engage with the internet. Algorithms are an easy way out, because they allow us to take the messiness of human life, the tangled web of relationships and potential matches, and do one of two things: Apply a clear, algorithmic framework to deal with it, or just let the actual algorithm make the choice for us. We’re forced to adapt to and work around algorithms, rather than use technology on our terms.’

Additionally, all of these algorithms and technologies are converging and they’re starting to anticipate our needs before we even know we have a need.

So are humans leading algorithms or are algorithms leading humans? And, if tech tries to define an algorithm for society who owns the judgment call?