Mind over machine? It just doesn’t matter

Michael Ramirez cartoon

Artificial intelligence beats human intelligence again.

According to an Associated Press report, some college students have come up with a computer plug-in called “Open Mind” that will detect fake or biased news online.

“The plug-in uses existing sentiment analysis technology to analyze any story that might appear in a newsfeed, identifying the major players and any political slant,” the story relates. “It then can suggest to the reader other stories on the same topic that have an alternate viewpoint.”

One of the students noted that, if there is an article that is very pro-Trump, then, “We would then try to give you something more left of center. We can go out and find for you that alternative article.”

Talk about a senseless and futile gesture. People don’t want balanced news accounts. They want their biases to be stroked and bucked up and enhanced by more of the same.

I call it the Amazon Effect.

Computerized marketing works by reinforcing your previous choices by offering more of the same: “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought …” Click on a book by conservative radio talk show host Mark Levin and your helpful algorithm suggests books by Thomas Sowell, Newt Gingrich, Glenn Beck, Ann Coulter and Karl Rove. Type in the name of any liberal writer and you get the obverse of the coin.

About a decade ago the speaker at a national convention of newspaper editors was one of the gurus of computer-age marketing, Eric Schmidt, the chairman of the ubiquitous Google. (By the way, Open Mind is an extension for Google’s Chrome browser.)

Schmidt noted that the computer can offer to broaden your exposure as well as narrow it. Obviously, for every synonym there is an antonym. It makes no difference to the machine.

The Google guy noted that, when people were given an option of “show me an opposing view,” two-thirds would never look at it.

He also observed that of the news reporting online at that time, fully 80 percent of stories contained no original content, while of the remaining 20 percent, half came from newspapers. There might be some original reporting now, but the biases are doubtlessly still there or more so.

Has the lack of human intelligence foiled artificial intelligence again?


One comment on “Mind over machine? It just doesn’t matter

  1. Rincon says:

    This blog exposes us to the views of others, often views much different from our own. This enriches us all. Thank you, Thomas, for a valuable public service as well as an interesting diversion.

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