Code Dependent: Pros and Cons of the Algorithm Age | Pew Research

, ; Code Dependent: Pros and Cons of the Algorithm Age; 2017-02-08; 87 pages; landing.
Teaser: Algorithms are aimed at optimizing everything. They can save lives, make things easier and conquer chaos. Still, experts worry they can also put too much control in the hands of corporations and governments, perpetuate bias, create filter bubbles, cut choices, creativity and serendipity, and could result in greater unemployment.

tl;dr → there be dragons; this is an important area; the future is at stake; the alarum has been sounded; there are seers who can show us the way. In their own words.


Future of the Internet, of Pew Research & Elon University.

Table of Contents

  • Overview
  • Themes illuminating concerns and challenges
  • Key experts’ thinking about the future impacts of algorithms
  • About this canvassing of experts
  • Theme 1: Algorithms will continue to spread everywhere
  • Theme 2: Good things lie ahead
  • Theme 3: Humanity and human judgment are lost when data and predictive modeling become paramount
  • Theme 4: Biases exist in algorithmically-organized systems
  • Theme 5: Algorithmic categorizations deepen divides
  • Theme 6: Unemployment will rise
  • Theme 7: The need grows for algorithmic literacy, transparency and oversight
  • Acknowledgments


Code-Dependent: Pros and Cons of the Algorithm Age; , (Pew Research Center); In Their Blog; 2017-02-08.

Teaser: Algorithms are aimed at optimizing everything. They can save lives, make things easier and conquer chaos. Still, experts worry they can also put too much control in the hands of corporations and governments, perpetuate bias, create filter bubbles, cut choices, creativity and serendipity, and could result in greater unemployment/


  • Pew Research Center of the Pew Charitable Trusts
  • Imagining the Internet Center at Elon Univesity
  • <ahem>the Singularity enthusiasts … .</ahem>


  1. Algorithms will continue to spread everywhere
  2. Good things lie ahead
  3. Humanity adn human judgement are lost wwhen data nad predictive modeling become paramount
  4. Biases exist in algorithymically-organized systems
  5. algorithmic categorizations deepen divides
  6. Unemployment will rise
  7. The need grows for algorithmic literacy, transparency and oversight.


  • <snicker>Artificial Intelligence (AI)</snicker>
  • algocratic governance
  • surveillance capitalism
  • information capitalism
  • topsight
  • black-box nature [of]
  • digital scientism
  • obedience score


  • Aneesh Aneesh, Stanford University.
  • Peter Diamandis, CEO, XPrize Foundation.
  • Shoshana Zuboff, Harvard.
  • Jim Warren, activist.
  • Terry Langendoen, expert, U.S. National Science Foundation.
  • Patrick Tucker technology editor at Defense One,.
  • Paul Jones, clinical professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and director of
  • David Krieger, director of the Institute for Communication & Leadership IKF,.
  • Galen Hunt, partner research manager at Microsoft Research NExT,.
  • Alf Rehn, professor and chair of management and organization at Åbo Akademi University in Finland,.
  • Andrew Nachison, founder at We Media,.
  • Luis Lach, president of the Sociedad Mexicana de Computación en la Educación, A.C.
  • Frank Pasquale, professor of law, University of Maryland.
  • Jeff Jarvis, reporter.
  • Cindy Cohn, executive director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation,.
  • Bernardo A. Huberman, senior fellow and director of the Mechanisms and Design Lab at HPE Labs, Hewlett Packard Enterprise.
  • Marcel bullinga, expert.
  • Michael Rogers, principal, Practical Futurist.
  • Brian Christian, Tom Griffiths.
  • David Gelertner.
  • Deloitte Global (anonymous contributors).
  • Barry Chudakov, founder and principal at Sertain Research and StreamFuzion Corp.
  • Stephen Downes, staff, National Research Council of Canada,.
  • Bart Knijnenburg, assistant professor in human-centered computing at Clemson University.
  • Justin Reich, executive director at the MIT Teaching Systems Lab.
  • Dudley Irish, tradesman (a coder).
  • Ryan Hayes, owner of Fit to Tweet,.
  • Adam Gismondi, a visiting scholar at Boston College.
  • Susan Etlinger, staff, Altimeter Group.
  • Chris Kutarna, fellow, Oxford Martin School.
  • Vintno Cert, Internet Hall of Fame, vice president and chief internet evangelist at Google:.
  • Cory Doctorow, writer, computer science activist-in-residence at MIT Media Lab and co-owner of Boing Boing.
  • Jonathan Grudin, Microsoft.
  • Doc Searls, director, Project VRM, Berkman Center, Harvard University,.
  • Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center.
  • Richard Stallman, Internet Hall of Fame, president of the Free Software Foundation.
  • David Clark, Internet Hall of Fame, senior research scientist at MIT,.
  • Baratunde Thurston, Director’s Fellow at MIT Media Lab, ex-digital director of The Onion.
  • Anil Dash, pundit.
  • John Markoff, New York Times.
  • Danah Boyd (“danah boyd”), founder, Data & Society, an advocacy group.
  • Henning Schulzrinne, Internet Hall of Fame, professor at Columbia University,.
  • Amy Webb, futurist and CEO at the Future Today Institute.
  • Jamais Cascio, distinguished fellow at the Institute for the Future.
  • Mike Liebhold, senior researcher and distinguished fellow at the Institute for the Future,.
  • Ben Shneiderman, professor of computer science at the University of Maryland,.
  • David Weinberger, senior researcher at the Harvard Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society.


Previously filled.

How We Lost The Web | Anil Dash @ Harvard Berkman Center


  • Generalized handwringing & bitching about Facebook and to a lesser extent Google.
  • He gets down to something interesting at 0:15, first big point at 0:33; againat 0:45 to 0:55.
  • Privately-Owned Public Spaces (POPs)
  • A mindpuzzle about the conflation of “speech” and “intellectual property” by rendering of the first in the second by means of digital mediation schemes.
  • And thus how TOS constrains speech behavior.
  • Metadata is dead because it has an economic component
  • Links have been destroyed as an editorial artifice because of PageRank and the economic value imbued to them because of Google’s search.
  • Facebook has EdgeRank and the same thing is happening with the pollution of the Like.
  • Yahoo! won’t poison Favorites on Flickr that way because they can’t execute.
  • Economic interests are bad.  When economic interests enter the picture then bad things happen.
  • Lots of complaining about the transition barrier approach to off-site links under the term Gaslighting the Web.
  • Problems constraining behavior and experience can be bugs or they could be malevolent intent; one can never tell.
  • Formats are not survivable over time as they are opaque, properietary, closed.
  • The features that define the culture are not interoperable: the Like, Favorite, etc.
  • Social Network Systems (Mega-Applications) are like public spaces, but they are Privately-Owned Public Spaces (POPs)
  • Yet public officials use these systems for public speech.
  • Something about the arrogance of the old guard and the hubris (bad) of the open crew versus the ineffable something (successful) of the closed/prison crew who built Facebook using the verb “to privilege” and laying blame on “us” who “allowed it to happen.”
  • Generalized bitching about how Facebook and Apple are “not egalitarian cultures.”
    Huh.  But what about Windows culture?  They’re far far larger?
  • Something about the long-thin ribbon-tape web page with lots and lots of activity “below the fold.”  The ribbon-tape is a “stream.” Streams are experienced by the users as “apps.”
  • Something about how the pendulum having swung back to “The Cloud” with all of the computing done on the server side with little control from the users.  But it will swing back to the client side somehow some way.
  • Apps want to Do The Right Thing, his app in particular; something about a kickstarter for a protest app to build “The Next Facebook”
  • Very hard to learn about the history of the software industry and its impact of culture.  e.g. what happened in the office software suite wars of the 1980s.  Even though this all happened in living memory; e.g. the inventor of the spreadsheet.   What does a market battle look like?
  • Touches on the Quantified Self (analytics) movement and the puzzle of why personal analytics for online behavior is not ubiquitous.  For example, the question of whether one is spending more time reading “pages” or reading “streams.”
  • Something about protesting the Terms of Service (TOS), or breaking them at whatever consequences may ensue. Posting copyrighted videos on YouTube is an “act of civil disobedience” just like the Million Man March.
  • In the Q&A he addresses the effect of the “Browser in the Cloud”


  • Destroy Everyone’s Wedding Photos, is the first thing you do on success.
  • Gaslighting the Web.
  • Privately-Owned Public Spaces (POPs).
  • Geeks Fight The Last Battle.
  • Public Policy can be an effective way of mitigating all this.
  • Apps want to Do The Right Thing.

Via backfill

The Case for User Agent Extremism | Anil Dash

Anil Dash; The Case for User Agent Extremism; In His Blog; 2013-03-19.


  • Call to Action: create a list of capabilities in web browsers and user agents that we consider inviolate. (who is “we” here?)
  • Deconstruct the term as “agent of the user”, “agency of the user” “agency for the user”
  • There are biztech trends evolfing towards undermining said agency
  • Distinguishes
    • plugins (“which began to wane in importance a decade ago”); e.g. Flash
    • extensions & addons (e.g. Gecko)
    • bookmarklets & scriptlets
  • User control over user agents is “rapidly ending” (i.e. is dead).
    • Security
    • Performance
    • Cloud => Core functionality is done server-side
      • Cross-Agent & Cross-Device Sync of bookmarks, tabs, etc.
      • Single Sign-On
    • Mobile => no popular mobile browser supports plugins
    • Webkit => single code base with 90% market share; expect stagnation
    • Distribution => software delivered via curated & controlled “stores”
      (c.f. AdBlock Plus removed from Google Store)
  • Rise of ubiquitous content controls
    • Derive with “contract” and “copyright”
    • Cases: DVD, HDCP, HTML EME
  • The “canary” tests
    • View Source command in the browser
      • Only legacy officework desktop browsers support it
      • No mobile browser supports it
    • Print Page button
      • Same
  • The doublespeaking Language
    • Case 1
      • Obvious => “our browser shuts off the print button”
      • Misdirecting => “we offer a pay gate feature with deep integration into the browser for subscribers”
    • Case 2
      • Obvious => “We neuter competing social networks by disabling their sharing buttons”
      • Misdirecting => “We’ve launched a preferred partner program to enable deep browser integration from a set of verified social networks that offer the features our users want”
    • Case 3
      • Obvious => “We block content from displaying if you haven’t signed in with our cloud service and had your extensions approved by us”
      • Misdirecting => “Customers who sign in with their account get access to exclusive content from our partner sites.”
  • Quotes
    • <quote>There should be no constraint about what user agents can do on our behalf to present, transform, remix, combine, format, reformat and display the content we view on the web. If we want to make a browser or browser add-on that strips away ads from a page, that’s our right. If I want to have a browser show everything in black and white? Let me as the user have that agency. Print everything upside down and in blinking text? Absolutely. Transform every mention of “the cloud” into the phrase “my butt“? You bet your… well, you know.</quote>
    • <quote>Here’s where the Pollyannas in the tech industry, or those too young to have seen how the patterns repeat, say with faith and certainty, “That won’t happen! My favorite browser is open source!</quote>
    • <quote>So, I’m a user agent extremist. We should work constructively together within the tech community (perhaps led by the EFF) to create a list of capabilities in web browsers and user agents that we consider inviolate.</quote>

On Point

  • Mozilla abandons Thunderbird, an open source browser
  • Opera adopts WebKit
  • Google abandons RSS Reader
  • Facebook & Google+ ID & Social Signon


  • “The browser”, like the magazine, is the publisher’s agent to deliver value to the advertiser by wrapping that value in & with experiential design to attact the consumer. It was ever thus in the publishing trade.
  • Publisher’s nuclear option is Quid Pro Quo