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What Are Algorithms?

Words of Life / Salvation Army
The Truth Network Radio
May 15, 2022 1:11 am

What Are Algorithms?

Words of Life / Salvation Army

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May 15, 2022 1:11 am

Last week we began a new, 7-week series about technology and the church called, “Discipled by Algorithms”. Throughout this series we are joined by professor, author, podcaster- Jason Thacker.

Last week Bernie and Jason discussed the question, “Is technology neutral”. And this week, Jason is going to break down what algorithms are and how we interact with them daily.


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Hi this is breathing welcome to the Salvation Army's words of life will come back to words of life. I'm breathing and I'm Cheryl Gillam. Last week we began a new seven-week series about technology in the church called discipled by algorithms throughout this series we are joined by Prof. Arthur podcast or Jason Thacker this weekdays and break down what algorithms are and how we interact with them on a daily basis. Welcome back to Jason Thacker are just for this series and that I want to say right off the bat. I've been given a Butler producer called the age of AI by Jason and is awesome. No full disclosure, I haven't finished it yet but I'm so encouraged by the conversation and that's why Jason's here for the series. Welcome back on really good to be with you guys. We are glad you're here all the way from Nashville, Tennessee, which for some of our international listeners is usually referred to as the country music capital of the United States, but at the end of the day it's become a music Center for the state is less, but that's not your gifting know it's not Jason's very involved with the Southern Baptist convention, and if you could tell just recap real quick what you do with them yet. So for the ER LC are the ethics and religious Liberty commission oversee all of our Christian ethics in our research.

So whether it's for marriage and sexuality over to justice issues, international issues, religious liberty issues and one of my focus area specifically is technology really doesn't fit in a specific category because we live in a technological society. So every aspect of our life really is affected by artificial intelligence or affected by some form of technology. So it's kind of a more all-encompassing type of focus for us but oversee all of our ethics research and focusing on some of the biggest issues of the day. One of the words that gets tossed around the technology may or may not actually be something that people understand this word that I'm speaking of is algorithms and I say go yeah how would you define that to our listeners. I think for most people when they hear the algorithm it's always in the definite of the algorithm as others just one sure that's controlling all of these various things. There are numerous algorithms, hundreds and millions of different algorithms that do very specific things in the book all talk about is the fact of narrow AI in the sense that there are many forms of AI that have been dreamed up. The only one that we have is what's called narrow and that's very specific so Siri on our devices is a form of narrow AI. It takes our speech and translates it into text. We have things like a thermostat that's very narrow in its application, or just smart thermostats of so many of these AI devices are really just smart devices so smart phone, smart appliances, smart everything is a smart cars even like the Internet of things. Yet the Internet of things. So everything is connected to the Internet and it can learn over time. So my thermostat can decide you know in the mornings. He normally turns it up a little bit so it's not as cold. We like to sleep when it's cold at home and one of the things is it automatically turn that up in the morning. Will that automation or that automatic behavior changes driven by an algorithm, but so is our social media feeds. So are the Netflix queue or browsing history. Everything that we have is can we live in an increasingly curated age, which can have a lot of devastating consequences in terms of isolating us or just exposing us to one particular perspective or view that can in many ways lead us into kind.

These cultural bubbles or cultural enclaves. We don't realize or see other perspectives on some of the most important issues of the day to Jason, I'm a few years older than you have been around at any of our listeners know that I'm kind of a child at heart and it was interesting to me that even just referring to your thermostats. You've assigned a pronoun, but because it's a member of your family. When he senses that I'm awake. I just think that's interesting because technology really has become part of the family as part of our essay or fiber, but it's everywhere we exist on, that's a very particular thing with my sons this is interesting especially for younger generation that I remember a day before these technology course my children won't so they're growing up with a home pod or Siri home pod and I talked to Siri all the time in the sense of Siri play this Siri do this and I'm I'm nervous to even say that our podcast is someone else's advice or one of our devices might wake ups right and start texting someone or playing music or what. What have you but we live, surrounded by these technologies.

Whether Celexa or Google or Apple or what have you is these devices are all throughout our homes all throughout her office is real even throughout her cars and are and always on us. I wake up and I pick up my phone almost immediately. Or I put on my Apple watch and it's always there with me and so really, in some sense we are always being listened to, in some sense because you have these devices are listening for that special word say it because naturally everyone's devices awake. But these things as we were surrounded and can inundated by technology. Specifically, artificial intelligence, and often we just haven't taken the time to slow down and think about it that the nature of these tools how the shaping, informing us not just internally but also the way that we view God the way that we view other people as image bearers and shifting radically shifting the way that even the churches ministry and in this digital age and so that's one of the things in my hope with writing the book was to cause people to slow down a little bit and to ask some of these difficult kind of big questions in order to better understand the nature of this age and the culture around us.

Ultimately, so that we can going back to Jesus words of loving God and loving our neighbor as herself. This is a quote from Jason's book, the age of AI, whether we realize it or not algorithms are discipling each of us in very particular ways. Give me some examples of how you see technology or algorithms that use society. I think a lot of listeners when they hear the word of these technologies are algorithms discipling us seems a little strong and what I mean by that is that it shaping, informing us in particular ways of discipleship when we typically think of, especially within the churches that were Disciples of Christ were becoming more like Christ. Well, one of the ways that technology is is not always pointing us in shaping us in godly ways.

It can be shaping us in deeply ungodly ways are selfish and prideful and arrogant ways. Were we focus on herself and so these tools are really shaping or discipling us there forming us now to talk about, especially in the nature of technology in the sense that it's always with us, so it for those who are attending attend church or a member of a local church. You know you might gather together on Sunday morning for an hour or two depending on how long your pastor goes, you might gather if you're more traditionally might have a Sunday night or Wednesday night gathering maybe of a small group that meets once or twice.

Maybe have some friends that come over and then you add on top of that the nature of student Bible study and prayer like individual, devotional time, you might get up to 15 or 20 hours a week may be that's pretty generous should be honest what's with us all the time 24 seven start technology devices always with us. We spent obscene amount of our sometimes and kind of engage in entertainment or on these devices where I get that dreaded notification on Sunday morning probably like most of us that your screen time was up so many percentages this week and you like get behind me Satan like I don't want you. I know that I spent too much time. I don't need a reminder of it on Sunday morning service and so that's the nature, is that it shaping is forming us it shaping the way that we view God the way view ourselves as what is it mean to be human, and even shaping the way that we view those around us including the world and that's why I say when we get back to when were talking about AI artificial intelligence technology.

Some of the most important question seem disconnected is who is God and what is he like and then what is it mean to be human. That seems really disconnected because we naturally want to go right to the solution. But what we need to do is ask him of the bigger questions because that helps us to get to better solutions and better and better ways to think about the tools and how their discipling, shaping, informing us we asked some of these more fundamental to me asking example, if we talk about social media that that was a popular thing that came up in the last episode.

If I aligned with a particular worldview. You know from interacting with posts how to how algorithms play a role in enforcing my view, as is it correct now and this isn't just true in certain platforms that are known to be a little bit more divisive or politically driven.

So whether it's Twitter, whether it's Facebook, Instagram tick-tock, it really doesn't matter all using algorithms and the algorithm is collecting massive amounts of data on you not just about your profile picture and the words in the bio we put her on not just the things that we retweet or share or post or share on Instagram reels, etc. but also things that we engage with the things that we main passive league engage with how long our eyesight kind of glances at something, how long we pause on something even tying and sometimes our browser history of things we search for the things we've looked for things we purchase in the past building in many ways, profile, and what this these platforms do is we often think that these five forms are free and they are in the sense that we don't monetarily contribute to them. What we do is often we don't read them. But the trend terms and conditions or terms of service. We just flip to those things as quick as possible. And even if you try to read him though on the side. It's so full of legal jargon that is almost impossible to understand, but we we immediately click agree and move on these tools. These especially, these algorithms are using these these this point of data in the stuff that's been collected us to market to us right so naturally everything we do online in some sense it's not free and that since it's free in the sense that we don't monetarily contribute is not free in the sense that we are giving these companies something right were giving them data and in turn they distill that into a prediction or saying you know you can reach 25 to 34-year-old man on this demographic in this age who are interested in X, Y, and Z in order to market to them and that's how they make money. Yeah, these platforms cost immense amounts of money to produce and maintain into the market in the way they're doing that is through advertising. So that's really I think one of the ways that algorithms we don't were starting to talk about is the way that it shaping the things we view and because they are intentionally trying to keep you on the platform longer so maybe exposing you to more and more intense content or content that it thinks you will like in order to keep you longer in order for you to see more ads in the more ads you see, the more money you spend this kind of the cycle that continue leased in many way spins out of control and I think many of us, especially in the last year show are waking up to the fact that it's not just the big tech companies on a love that language because some of the biggest tech companies are included right some of the smallest like twitter are included in big tech. The ideas that the technology industry ways are has an immense amount of influence over the things we see the things that we experience and even some things we do but we often just don't take time to slow down and asked those really hard questions and to think about it about how these technologies are shaping and discipling us. I do want to apply. There are companies out there that are making technology in ways that are useful to us.

For instance, you know problem. I hope that if someone were to look at my screen time, they'd see that my Bible app is open multiple times throughout the day are constantly referring to it. Looking for Scripture which also enables me to highlight things and make notes on you just like I would've in the printed form of of that sacred text to know so there there's so much good out there and there's so much information that we could be learning from your experience in an honesty Jason were just so glad that you're with us for this series. I hope that our listeners will check out Jason Thacker's the age of AI. You can find it anywhere you can buy books.

Is there an audiobook yet there is an audiobook and get bullying and unchristian book get out technology at its finest. So listen, we hope you'll come back and join us for the next episode until then God bless you. The Salvation Army's mission doing the most good means helping people with material and spiritual needs become a part of this mission every time you give to the Salvation Army visit Salvation Army to offer your support and love to hear from you.

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