The internet is an amazing place for getting inspiration, meeting new people and learning anything your heart desires. It’s given billions of people a voice who didn’t have one before, and they’re using it with gusto — myself included.
It’s an amazing development I can only celebrate. However, there is one little issue that bugs me a bit. To make sense of all those voices, companies have introduced algorithms that filter our input to match what they guess are our interests and desires. For that reason, our online feeds keep showing us things that are similar to what we’ve clicked on previously. By analyzing our behavior in the past, it tries to predict our behavior in the future. Very clever.
But also very restricting. By making suggestions that match our previous behavior, it guides us to stick to our old patterns. It doesn’t challenge us, doesn’t expose us to different perspectives, and doesn’t help us broaden our horizon. I understand why current algorithms operate like this: Their job is to keep us engaged in the platform they serve. Of course, the best bet is to give us more of what we seem to like.
However, the way those algorithms have been designed is very flawed in my opinion. I don’t just want to see what I like. I want to see what is true. I want to be challenged. I want to be inspired. And I can’t do that if I’m only exposed to the same old. Of course, it’s great that my Facebook feed isn’t spammed with content from people I met 5 years ago and barely know, but on the other hand, I’ll also never get to know these people better if I don’t see their content — what’s the purpose of being connected online if the algorithms don’t support that connection?
Sure, I can search for stuff and people, but I rarely know what to search for or I simply forget about it, and let’s be honest: Most of us are lazy internet users. We’ll happily stay within our comfort bubble if we’re not forced to behave otherwise. I’m not going to think of that person from back then if I’m not reminded. And with how the system currently works, I’m not reminded.
Algorithms and Creativity
What bothers me is the restrictiveness enforced by these algorithms. I go online to be…