The #pew research center (PRC) released a comprehensive analysis of the application and mainstream use of #Algorithms. In addition, the findings include positive and negative instances when an algorithm benefited or backfired in different real-life events.

It turns out the word algorithm has a long and extensive history. It is usually associated with computers nowadays. The term is a set of instructions for solving a problem and completing a task. The origin of the word can be traced back to the 9th century, and the name came from the Persian Muslim mathematician Abu Al-Khwarizmi, according to Scriptol.

Believe it or not probably every device we use operates with algorithmic systems.

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There are many examples of systems based on algorithms: the internet, email, mobile apps (Android or iOS), video games, GPA mapping systems, social networks and more.

To some extent, algorithms provide enhancements and are essential tools to carry out robust tasks. But as the results from the PEC indicated there were instances or unintended consequences from algorithms created.

Here are some of the most recent news or hiccups with algorithms:

  • The British currency experienced 6.1 percent drop in value
  • Microsoft created Twitter bot Tay to chat with Millennials
  • Facebook creates Trending Topics
  • Predictive analytics tend to punish the poor

In the first incident, the decline in value was triggered by currency trades caused by algorithms. In a separate case, Microsoft the Twitter bot generated Tweets that were racist, sexist and denied the Holocaust.

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Facebook, a no stranger to controversies, attempted to improve the Trending Topics feature. The result was the algorithms could not distinguish the difference between real news from fake news.

Finally, the book author Cathy O´Neil whose work “Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy” alluded to this the disenfranchisement of the poor.

What lies ahead for the future of algorithms

In the era of so much data algorithms will continue to work for the benefit of humankind. They help not just automate processes but improve efficiency significantly. However, there is a need for more work and research to maximize the potential of algorithms to work in a positive manner.

In this comprehensive PEC compilation report here are the major themes of the algorithm era:

  • Algorithms will continue to spread everywhere
  • Good things lie ahead
  • Humanity and human judgment are lost when data and predictive modeling become paramount
  • Biases exist in algorithmically-organized systems
  • Algorithmic categorizations deepen divides
  • Unemployment will rise
  • The need grows for algorithmic literacy

So these seven themes will shape the discourse of algorithms into the next decade.

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They set a precedent on where the discussion and improvements need to happen.

Final thoughts

Technology is a tool that is prevalent in use, and like all inventions, it contains technical flaws from time to time.

A Phys.org news report titled "Algorithms: The managers of our digital lives" elicits that there are four families of web algorithms. One that scores popularity of web pages, another the authority of a digital community, the notoriety of social network users and the fourth predict the future.

The problem is the byproduct is never what we come to expect. In spite of the harnessing and great power, algorithms come to offer they have failed at predicting the future.