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Computing pioneer Bob Frankston says algorithms are the new bureaucracy [audio] (factordaily.com)
76 points by ston3r 9 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 14 comments

Is there a special term for opaque algorithms with no human customer service contact info or practical alternative? An algorithmic incarnation of Terry Gilliam's "Brazil" and "Office Space".

No proof, but I have a feeling its more of a way around regulations for most tech companies. For example, in hiring, IQ tests are known to have predictive value but they're basically banned because they discriminate against women and minorities.

So you build a grey box neural network that analyzes resumes to find "good" candidates. Underneath it might draw correlations between female or minority names. It might decide that people who lived in certain places or came from country X are "bad employees". Since nobody can explain how it works once you've trained it, you're free to build it using whatever biases you want.

Same with financial regulations. The network could rely 100% on insider trading. Analyzing the HTML of websites for leaked information that isn't visible to humans yet. Again nobody knows this is how it's so good at taking in bytes at one end and buying stocks on the other.

All we have now are examples like Google and Facebook.

Microsoft has recently switched to an unhelpful, enraging chat bot for their help service and hidden their actual contact information.


The whole point of electronic computers being able to perform algorithms was to replace the work of computers (the human kind) in huts filling out sheets according to strict rules.

They're literally an attempt to replace humans as the mechanism by which rote paperwork can be done -- that they're used this way by business isn't terribly surprising.

So algorithms aren't the "new bureaucracy", they're the new way of doing the old bureaucracy -- as they were since inception. This is a feature, not a bug.

I used to hate paperwork for interacting with bureaucracy until I looked at it as a sort of high latency RESTful API.

Reframing a difficult situation is a successful coping skill!

Yep, but not just coping. I think reframing is a way of conceptual refactoring to improve any thought process. It’s not always successful though..

I’ve also wondered if some elements of brainstorming could be automated, such as reframing a situation in random ways and see what the result is like..

For engineering problems, TRIZ has classes of solutions based on principles of previously solved problems, a semi-structured "random" walk, https://www.southampton.ac.uk/~jps7/Lecture%20notes/TRIZ%204...


I can easily look at it that way, but it doesn't get better, at all.

Makes you think about RESTful apis, huh

There is also the term "faceless bureaucracy" which I think describes the situation best.

Very cool interview, but I'm struggling to understand it. Consider tweaking the acoustics of your recording space to reduce reverb.

ston3r, I'd be glad to help improve the audio and give you pointers on doing it yourself. Just send a link to uncompressed source audio to me at cwiltgen at Gmail.

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