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Do Zuckerberg and his computer geniuses really understand their own creation?
Facebook’s artificial intelligence has been built (or more accurately, cobbled together) over several years by hundreds of different developers and programmers. Professor Zeynep Tufekci of Harvard University describes the Facebook algorithm as “giant matrices, maybe millions of rows and columns, and not even the programmers understand anymore how exactly it is operating.”
There are so many variables that go into its complex and proprietary sorting that Facebook cannot say with authority why something will or will not appear in a user’s news feed.
Nevertheless, a number of experts have been closely observing this company and have figured out a few of its behavioral patterns. Combined with recent revelations from a whistleblower, we now know that Facebook has implemented technological surveillance of our online behavior to capture our personal data in a way that would have made East Germany’s Stasi drool with envy. The goal is to generate increasingly accurate, automated predictions of what advertisements we are most influenced by.
The platform is specifically designed to keep users clicking, tapping and scrolling down a bottomless feed, and in the process deliver us to various advertisers. Facebook terms this “a social-validation feedback loop.” But that is not all. Based on our individual profiles, the Facebook engagement algorithms are also designed to feed us sensationalist news (both fake and real) selected to provoke powerful emotions of anger and fear. By reacting to, clicking on and sharing these stories, users are herded by the Facebook “persuasion architecture” into hyper-partisan information ghettos of opinion and alternative facts, referred to as “cognitive bubbles.”
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