Skip to main content

Follow up: A failure of intelligence

The only comment I received over my earlier blog post criticized me for digressing too much and not presenting an opinion. So, in this post, I aim to give my views on the filtering of search results by services we trust, like Google and Facebook.

So, what is the issue with filtering search results to make them more specific to the user (searcher)? As discussed in the video, the main issue with this mechanism is that it isolates a person from the web, where a person might go in to spot views contrary to his own, some views can challenge a person's often limited and biased understanding of matters, thereby helping in the overall development of a person. By filtering those views, Google and Facebook end up showing us views that we like, instead of views that we ought to see, which essentially leaves our world view unchanged.

Take for example the concept of my personal blog (this one). I end up sharing links to my posts on Google+ and Facebook. I shall refrain from discussing about Facebook here, mainly because I have not tried the experiment I am mentioning here on Facebook, only on Google. My concern is with the fact that Google shows links which have been shared by friends or myself on Google+ with a priority, as it believes that these links are important. They may be, but am I searching on Google just to reaffirm my views with those I myself have written. This means that right now, I can jump up with glee congratulating myself on the (assumed) fact that my blog is considered important enough for Google to display as a top link in a search. At the same time, it means that when my friends followers on Google+ search for the same keywords, they shall see my views, as incorrect, biased and prejudiced as they may be, in the first page of their search, relegating important search results to the background. Which may be good for me, because it increases the viewership of my blog, but which I do not agree with because it is not really an ethical way of gathering viewers. Nevertheless, if I do not publicize my blog on Google+, I end up getting (yes, you guessed it right) zero page-views on my blog, which really defeats the purpose of blogging.

At the same time, Facebook is hell bent on destroying my friendships, because it ends up not posting a single status update in my news feed of friends with whom I don't really interact, which includes some of my best friends. The reason I don't interact much with them on Facebook is that I generally hate poking people in the virtual world and basing my friendships on the number of pokes. As it is, I consider poking to be a bad habit. With 450 friends, I find it extremely time consuming and boring to go through the profiles of all my friends, but not visiting profiles automatically qualifies those friends for expulsion from my news feed, whether that is what I desire or not. At the same time, Facebook removes those friends from my news feed whose interests or religious or political views do not match mine. What this means is that effectively, I get news feed from a limited subset of my friends, those whose views reaffirm mine. Do you see the ghosts of divide and rule?

However, this filtering of search results is extremely important too. I remember the days before Google, when I used the crappy search engine on Internet Explorer (was it version 4 or 5?) which never filtered my search results. As a result, I had to hunt for long over a 30kbps dial-up connection, which meant that I was not really able to get the information I needed from the net as quickly or as efficiently as I can do now. In fact, if it were not for these intelligent algorithms, I would perhaps not use Google. Period.

I suppose what we really need is some level of filtering, which can be customized by the user. I would really like to know about the filters that Google uses, and I would like to change them to suit my liking. I would definitely demand more and more content aware searches, that give the user what (s)he wants, but at the same time, I would like that the user can specify what he wants, rather than have some 1000 engineers choose it for him/her.

Popular posts from this blog

Progressive Snapshot: Is it worth it?

I turned 25 last year, which in the highly mathematical and calculating eyes of the US insurance industry meant that I had suddenly matured into a much more responsible driver than I was at 24 years and 364 days of age. As a result, I expected my insurance rates to go down. Imagine my surprise when my insurance renewal notice from GEICO actually quoted a $50 increase in my insurance rates. To me, this was a clear signal that it was time to switch companies.Typically, I score really high on brand loyalty. I tend to stick with a brand for as long as possible, unless they really mess up. This qualified as a major mess up. As a result, I started shopping for insurance quotes.Two companies that quoted me significantly lower rates (30%–40% lower) were Progressive and Allstate. Both had an optional programme that could give me further discounts based on my consenting to the companies tracking my driving habits. Now, I am a careful driver – I hardly ever accelerate hard. I hate using the brak…

Build those noise cancelling headphones

So, here's another DIYLet me start by putting the cart before the horse. I shall start with the credits. This project was done while I was working on my Electronics Design Lab, along with my friends, Srujan M and Indrasen Bhattacharya. The work would not have been possible without the generous help received from the staff at Wadhwani Electronics Laboratory, who ensured that the only thing we did right was to leave the lab on time. This project would also not have been possible without the guidance of our dear and learned professors. It would probably have just about become additional dead weight on the head.Enough with the credits, now, I need to dive right into noise cancellation and how it works.The essence of sound is a pressure wave. The pressure wave, when incident on the eardrum sets into motion the complex mechanisms inside the ear, and after a long path, rather like the Cog advertisement, ends up making some nerves vibrate. The nerves send electrical signals to the brain, …

Reading List, December 2017

Brian Merchant, How email open tracking quietly took over the world, in Wired, 11 December 2017. [Online]: https://www.wired.com/story/how-email-open-tracking-quietly-took-over-the-web/It is no longer a secret that every website you visit silently tracks you in an effort to maximise ad revenue. What is less known is that emails also track you, through the use of tracking pixels and redirect links. These techniques were used by spammers and legitimate companies alike when creating newsletters or other mass email, in order to figure out their reach. What’s happening now is that private people are also using these techniques in order to create invisible and intrusive read receipts for email, which is incredibly frustrating from a privacy point of view.My solution to the tracking woes? I only open the plain-text component of email, which gets rid of tracking pixels entirely. Redirect links are harder to beat, and I don’t have a good solution for this.Dan Luu, Computer latency 1977–2017. D…