Greetings, Future Tensers,
This week, we published “When We Were Patched,” the second installment of our Future Tense Fiction series on sport. In it, Deji Bryce Olukotun explores a futuristic sports match that is officiated jointly by a human and a machine. From the perspective of the machine—an A.I. named Theodophilus Hawkeye the Sixteenth—we watch a FogoTennis championship, discovering along the way just how complex such decision-making partnerships can be. In response, Jeanna Matthews, an expert on algorithmic bias, explains that as humans and computers work side by side to “pick winners and losers,” we must be able to “understand, challenge, and audit the decisions” they make. Without those abilities, she argues, we’ll never attain an equal playing field.
Speaking of unequal playing fields, President Trump complained on Tuesday that Google was unfair, tweeting that the search engine’s results are “RIGGED” against him. While some tried immediately to debunk that claim, Alexander Halavais explains that Trump isn’t exactly wrong. In fact, he writes, Google is designed to be biased and is forced to sort through complex questions of preference and fact in order to arrange a narrative that is useful and satisfying for users.
If you aren’t satisfied by your Google search results, there are other corners of the internet where you can seek fulfilment—that is, Rachel Withers explains, if sipping on other peoples’ wedding drama is your cup of tea.
Other things we read while we swiped right on Tinder for college:
Dragonfly grounded: On last week’s If Then, April Glaser interviewed Ryan Gallagher, the Intercept reporter who revealed Google’s plan to launch a censored search engine in China.
Shame on who?: Think divulging specific details about attempted interference in the 2016 U.S. elections will scare Russia straight? Think again, Josephine Wolff writes.
Helping the hackers: Remember those kids who hacked voting websites at Def Con? Yeah, they definitely had help.
Write your own rules: It’s good that tech companies are lobbying the federal government for privacy laws, Will Oremus argues. What wouldn’t be good is if those companies got to write them.
Increasing incompetence: The Democratic National Committee first reported that someone tried to hack it, then said the attempted breach was a false alarm. What does that tell us about its cybersecurity know-how?
“Still pretty perplexed by it all,”
For Future Tense