Home Article Book Reviews Algorithms That Control Our Lives by David Sumpter

Algorithms That Control Our Lives by David Sumpter

Outnumbered: From Facebook and Google to Fake News and Filter-bubbles – the
Algorithms That Control Our Lives by David Sumpter
, Bloomsbury Sigma, 2018 Sumpter
offers cool analysis, hard numbers and unembroidered prose. The focus of the book is
computer algorithms. The author is a professor of Applied Mathematics in Sweden. He
completed his Ph.D. at Manchester. Having written extensively for leading global
magazines, Sumpter is able to convey often difficult material in an engaging way.
Sumpter constructs his own versions of algorithms to explain them. The mathematics is
at times hard to follow but the journey, though exhausting at times, is worth it.

The main finding is that despite the incredible power and complexity of modern computer
algorithms we still tend to overestimate or overstate what they can do.

There’s a cautionary tale about the role of hype and hyperbole in this space. “Fake
news” and “Filter bubbles” are troubling phenomena but the commentators who deplore
they tend to exaggerate their power.

As for Cambridge Analytica, Sumpter is Sceptical, not to say dismissively. For him, there is
no reason to think CA was able to sway the elections. Sumpter refers to Artificial
Intelligence. By taking us inside the “Black Boxes”, Sumpter’s book shows us that it is
still possible to understand how many “robot’s” work and what they may be capable of in
the future.

(For full Review refer to Richard King writing in The Weekend Australian, Sept
15/16,2018)

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