"Once Big Data systems know me better than I know myself, authority will shift from humans to algorithms."

There is no such thing as free will


Sun, Aug 28th, 2016 11:00 by capnasty NEWS

On FT, Yuval Noah Harari argues that we have no free will whatsoever. Not only is the concept of "free will" flawed — it is nothing more than a biochemical response all animals have in order to survive and reproduce — once big data is able to crunch numbers for each one of us, it will tell us what we should do and what we should like. This may not be as bad as it sounds.

This is just the beginning. Devices such as Amazon’s Kindle are able constantly to collect data on their users while they are reading books. Your Kindle can monitor which parts of a book you read quickly, and which slowly; on which page you took a break, and on which sentence you abandoned the book, never to pick it up again. If Kindle was to be upgraded with face recognition software and biometric sensors, it would know how each sentence influenced your heart rate and blood pressure. It would know what made you laugh, what made you sad, what made you angry. Soon, books will read you while you are reading them. And whereas you quickly forget most of what you read, computer programs need never forget. Such data should eventually enable Amazon to choose books for you with uncanny precision. It will also allow Amazon to know exactly who you are, and how to press your emotional buttons. Take this to its logical conclusion, and eventually people may give algorithms the authority to make the most important decisions in their lives, such as who to marry. In medieval Europe, priests and parents had the authority to choose your mate for you. In humanist societies we give this authority to our feelings. In a Dataist society I will ask Google to choose. “Listen, Google,” I will say, “both John and Paul are courting me. I like both of them, but in a different way, and it’s so hard to make up my mind. Given everything you know, what do you advise me to do?”



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