Woke to find the Globe and Mail website wondering: “Is math replacing independent thought?” (They’ve moved on to other topics, but my screen cap is to the left.)
Headlines like that really irk my wife, a math prof at the U of R. Her response: “Clearly, whoever wrote that doesn’t know anything about math.”
The article, as it turns out, is about the algorithms behind things like Google searches, automated stock trading and dating sites. But it’s not the most informative tech article I’ve ever read. It doesn’t go into too much detail about how those algorithms work. Instead, it hand waves the math away, explaining it’s like a black box no one really understands, then spends four pages whipping up hysteria over how computers are replacing human decision makers in various fields.
As far as the writer’s concerned, computer algorithms are as virulent as gray goo and the next step toward a cybertotalitarianism indistinguishable from the dystopias of sci-fi. We’re all in danger of becoming uncreative drones, he wails (all the while ignoring the fact that all those algorithms are written by creative and imaginative people).
Have to admire the writer’s skills of a journalist. Science and technology writing can be so dully scientific and technological sometimes. It’s nice when you can find an apocalyptic angle to really sell it.
Meanwhile, also up for discussion in today’s Globe, Margaret Wente asks “Can environmentalism be saved from itself?” (another of her climate denier pieces) and Karen Von Hahn declares “It’s official: Feminism is out of style.”
You know, I just don’t like this shiny new Globe and Mail. Now that they’ve ditched Salutin and Southey, I see little reason to trust it for commentary on anything.
As for the math article, Zach Weiner, the cartoonist behind Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, offers some sage advice that the Globe’s headline writers should pay attention to….