The tyranny of algorithms

This morning’s Observer column.

Keynes’s observation (in his General Theory) that “practical men who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist” needs updating. Replace “economist” with “algorithm”. And delete “defunct”, because the algorithms that now shape much of our behaviour are anything but defunct. They have probably already influenced your Christmas shopping, for example. They have certainly determined how your pension fund is doing, and whether your application for a mortgage has been successful. And one day they may effectively determine how you vote…

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