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Orwell Meets Kafka — To the Power of Ten

So, this happened this week! I was creating an Instagram ad with thi illustration. It was rejected because it has suggestive content. Arguably, that is true.

So then I did new ads with less controversial images, and Instagram kept flagging them as suggestive! A formally dressed couple ballroom-dancing: sexually suggestive. Two guys are discussing an adventure expedition to find dinosaurs: sexually suggestive.

I think they were probably just flat-out rejected by the Instagram algorithm, which figured that I had posted suggestive content before, and therefore, this was surely suggestive too.

Censorship online is a real thing, and it is scary, frankly.

Essentially, a robot, an Artificial Intelligence, a computer program, becomes the police, the judge, and the executioner in one, with no way of appealing. It's 1984 meets Kafka - in the future.

The worrying thing is that “artificial intelligence” is just a fancy way of doing statistics. And statistics are a way of hard-coding prejudices.

Basically, it's always going to be a form of 'Bayesian Statistics', where you have a formula that predicts how likely it is that something specific will happen, given the data you already have from the past. That data from the past becomes a prejudice about what this algorithm figures is most likely to happen in the future. Prejudice, hard-coded into an entity that acts as the police, judge and executioner all in one.

The algorithm can also have prejudices against your skin color, gender, or city where you live. Are you scared yet?

I hope this isn't a sign of the future. Imagine tax authorities using this technology. “People in your line of work tend to understate their taxes, and so therefore we will assume you do too, and so we will audit you every year, just for the fun of it.“

Our laws are nowhere near ready to deal with the problems Artificial Intelligence is going to create.

I've seen other people complain about it, and you tend to think it won't affect you until it does. And it's scary because no human can help you correct the situation. I tried. I contacted Facebook — which owns Instagram — they couldn't help. There's just this cold machine that can ruin your life or destroy your investment on autopilot.

I should write a novel that explores this idea: 2084. Or should it be “The Algorithm”, in a nod to Kafka?

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