Are algorithms always objective?

I have long questioned the bias, intentional or otherwise, of search engines. It irks me that Google so frequently claims their algorithm is objective, when most information we generate is subjective, despite our best intentions. I have little doubt that Google intends to be objective, but so probably does Dan Rather.

A recent article from USC explores how an algorithm can be more biased than human editors, and the folks at Search Engine Watch weigh in as well. I hope the notion that algorithms are not inherently objective continues to catch on.

One Response to “Are algorithms always objective?”

  1. Searchix Says:

    What is objective?
    Well the algorithm is certainly objective towards the material it processes. It will not form an opinion, collect more facts and change it’s opinion. An algorithm always treats the material in the same way. Certainly an algorithm can change the outcome by starting from another state, but the material is treated in the same way every time.
    The development of a search engine is never objective. The most objective algorithm would probably be one where a random selection of documents would be listed, which contain the keyword.
    What is objective?
    Trying to filter spam is objective? In which way? The spammers want the results to be there. From their view the results are horribly biased. How many people buy because of spam? Unfortunately a lot. So wouldn’t a spam filtering algorithm cut the connection between buyer and seller? Is this not restricting access of information to people who are clearly interested? Doesn’t sound objective to me?
    Let’s say to offer results that most people want is the goal. What about the others? The results are not objective to them? Is a majority decision an objective decision? Can you answer this question objectively?
    Objective would be if two different people would do the exact same search, but get desired results based on their own personality.
    It seems that objective algorithms don’t work well at all for everybody or work perectly or everybody. Everything else is biased.

    Chlodwig

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