Author: Arvind Padmanabhan
An opinion about the good and the bad
When Guglielmo Marconi arrived in England in the 1890s, he brought with him the idea that information could be wirelessly sent across a distance. For a world still attached to wired telegraphy, this was a revolutionary idea. Marconi gave successful demonstrations to astonished audiences. Not many understood the principles. The equipment he carried were soon called “magic boxes”, except that there was no magic in them. They were simply cleverly constructed transmitters and receivers.
Today there’s a vaguely parallel development happening with data. Though lot of data is open, the algorithms that make use of them are closed. With algorithms, often employed for profit and hence proprietary, the “magic” is purposely hidden from those who wish to see them. Indeed, magicians thrive on the principle that tricks never be revealed. With the growing use (and misuse) of data in every sphere of life, we are becoming slowly aware of the important role that algorithms play in our lives. There’s a growing concern that algorithms may be working more against us than for us.