Columns/Opinion, Letters to the Editor

Artificial intelligence not up to the task, yet

Steven Knudsen, Morgantown
A recentop-edin your newspaper (DP-Tuesday) critiqued the role that artificial intelligence could play in policing social media for hate content. The editorial brought back the memory of the Supreme Court justice who said he could classify images and pornography “when he saw them.”
Artificial intelligence (AI) is still not up to this task, but as the essay intoned, human editors could use AI to quash competing but valid opinions and thoughts. The world of “1984” would then arrive for good, albeit about 35 years late.
The essay, however, missed an issue that plagues me and perhaps other of your readers also. It’s the notion of a rabbit hole or ideological echo chambers a social media user enters and sometimes fails to leave.
Services like Netflix, Youtube and Google assume that if you consume content, you’ll want more of the same. With this algorithm in place, it is almost guaranteed that if you read an article in favor of gun control, you won’t see as many links for the opposite position.
An easy way to test this is to pick an item you like, like a bicycle or a plasma TV, and then watch what happens on your internet pages and social media feeds. Even after the bicycle is in your garage, or the tires have been delivered, you’ll still see ads for them, as if you need many bicycles or hundreds of tires!
This phenomenon is understandable, because it’s hard to think of the alternative. If you want a bicycle, do you need a pickup truck to put it in? Do you need a new garage to park it in or hooks to hang it with? You can be sure that social media companies are working overtime to figure out what your purchasing and patterns of desire are, but consumer patterns are not totally predictable, and people only need so much stuff.
The same is true of our beliefs. Our beliefs are tied together like a tapestry, and many of us want evidence of both sides of an issue. In a world of seemingly infinite information complicated by product and political advertising, it seems like we have to weave our own tapestry of belief.