Algorithms – The Unseen Force Shaping Lives

Algorithms everywhereSource: Pixabay

Algorithms are more a part of our lives than many tend to acknowledge, or even think about. They are present in virtually every aspect of digital reality, even when the average person is not aware of them, working behind the scenes. Of course, virtually everyone uses a phone or computer these days, which means that their lives are basically run by algorithms. But to just what extent could, or does, an algorithm influence a person in how they make daily decisions?

In order to understand just how computer algorithms might influence a person’s life, it must first be understood what exactly an algorithm is. After all, algorithm is a word that is often used, but few tend to really understand what exactly it is.

Algorithms Explained

An algorithm, very simply, is a list of instructions on how to solve a problem. Such a list could be used for just about anything. For example; making a cup of coffee. An algorithm for this simple task may read something like; put water in the kettle, turn on the kettle, get a cup, put coffee in the cup, put sugar in the cup, and so on. Variations on the list could exist, depending on how a person likes their coffee.

In terms of the digital world, algorithms are exactly the same. Only, of course they are in digital form, and communicate with an operating system as to how to make software function. The term Artificial Intelligence, for example, is simply a collection of interlinking algorithms. Note that algorithms can never go beyond what is specifically written into them, and will only operate exactly as is intended. If a digital algorithm makes a mistake, it is human error 100% of the time.

Algorithms In Daily Life – Google

You’ll find algorithms in everything from the Random Number Generators that online casinos use to determine game outcomes, in the autocorrect function on your smartphone, and the photo editing apps that are linked to platforms such as Instagram. But the most prominent and obvious use of algorithms is in search engines such as Google.

All Google results are formed via an algorithm, which determines what results are placed on each page. This, inevitably, will have a massive impact on many parts of people’s lives. The Google algorithm could determine if a person buys one product over another, or takes one bit of advice over another. In other words; Google is massively responsible for many decisions people make, daily.

It is not often thought about, but Google can, in fact, be said to be one of the biggest influencers in daily decision making of all time. But how does the Google algorithm work, exactly?

Google determines the prominence with which a website should be displayed by a few aspects. The relation to the search term entered is, of course, key. But, the priority of the display result is determined by the value of the website, calculated by the frequency of links from and to the website, as well as a few other factors. Or, of course, if the website is paying Google.

Algorithms In Daily Life – Facebook

Much has been said about Facebook lately, and the way in which the algorithm decides which articles and posts to show users. Facebook uses an algorithm that constructs a feed based on the frequency of a user’s interaction with friends. The more interaction a user has, the more likely Facebook will be to show posts from those friends.

Plus, of course, like Google, Facebook also adds paid promotional posts and articles. This is likewise determined by companies that pay Facebook, which gives the post priority over other posts. So, as with Google, major influence is held over the user, depending on who is paying.

If you examine your life closely you’ll see just how often algorithms come in to play and just how much we do is governed by them. Scary maybe? But smart too if you consider that they are man-made.


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