The Algorithms of Fear

The Algorithms of Fear recently published in the Stanford Social Innovation Review brings new and needed insight to the insidious tendency in today’s political landscape to maintain the division between people who hold different views and have different paradigms. As we learned when Facebook was accused of a politically left bias in its “trending” news section, the media world heavily relies on algorithms to address its audiences. Algorithms are pieces of computer software that follow sets of rules to make calculations or solve problems. They are very good at “automatically” delivering content and information that people’s past online activity suggests they want.

But in this emotionally-charged political climate that’s a problem. If we are to make any progress on the tough issues that face us what’s needed is for people to be exposed to the other side of issues, to understand the reasoning and supporting evidence for the other person’s position.

The solution? The article suggests that government regulation combined with additional tools armed with algorithms “with new kinds of social values” are needed. Those solutions could very well make a difference.

But when passionate about an issue we would encourage people to take advantage of today’s technology and diverse media outlets to expose themselves to the dynamics that drive the opposing view. It doesn’t take much time and it will better position people to be part of a solution rather than put more fuel on the fire of the problem.