There’s a lot of hype in the world at the moment about how algorithms are taking over the world.

“Algorithms” is a posh word for equations.

There’s a lot of hype in the world at the moment about how machine learning is taking over the world.

“Machine learning” is one of those things that is terribly complicated to the extent that most people don’t really understand it. I’ve been reading a book recently, The Master Algorithm, which seems to make a pretty good stab at explaining both Algorithms and Machine Learning. It’s a bit preachy, though.

I’ve no doubt that machine learning and algorithms will continue to change the world around us. But the high priests of this stuff are getting a bit over the top with things, when the evidence around us would indicate that maybe it’s not quite as all powerful. Indeed, LinkedIn’s Reid Hoffman wrote recently about how machine learning might humanize management. What sort of madness is this?

All of these threads came together this morning for me in a minor moment oScreenshot_20160708-080014f crazy. I bought a camera on Amazon. I got the customary product recommendations after purchase – 3 tripods and a bag of catfood.

I don’t even own a cat.

Amazon are held up as paragons of the big data machine learning future. They have masses of data on which to act. I’ve purchased stacks of stuff from them over many years. They know my reading habits, my music preferences, my general shopping. Cat food-type recommendations aren’t unusual – recommendations for products outside of books and music are often pretty ropy.

Algorithms might be the future. But maybe the future isn’t quite as close as some might think.

2 thoughts on “Algorithms my arse

  1. I *think* that there are examples of genuinely clever ‘machine learning’ and ‘artificial intelligence’ work going on out there. The problem is that the vast majority of the time (I guess well over 99%), when companies say they are doing it, it is just marketing guff for the digital equivalent of rubbing two sticks together. I’ve seen a few great examples of this from the inside, where really simple ‘algorithms’ are dressed up to make them seem sexy and exciting. With so much nonsense going on, it’s hard to filter the wheat from the chaff.

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