Ramblings on a Word – Algorithm

hotel taj/Shelly Paul Image by Shelly Paul

Algorithm – method for tracing predictable patterns

When Úrsula Iguarán, matriarch of Buendía family began to go blind in her old age, she devised a clever method to keep the impaired vision a secret. She accomplished this successfully by observing, processing and storing data.

While walking down the verandah one afternoon, she nearly tripped over her daughter, Amaranta who was sitting in the shade doing needlework. Amaranta reacted sharply and asked her mother what was wrong, to which, Úrsula responded that it would not have happened if she was sitting in her usual place. The ensuing conversation and some reflection made Úrsula realize that the sun’s position changed slightly throughout the year, which caused her daughter to move to that extent each day from her usual place into the shade, until one day she obstructed her mother’s carefully memorized path.

Úrsula listened, deduced and memorized the patterns of all her family members and realized during the process that her family lived in predictable patterns, so much so that she could pin-point where everyone was at any given moment on any day. Her mental map was so accurate that one time, she helped locate her daughter-in-law’s misplaced wedding band through an aberration in the pattern.

This is the technique Google search, Facebook and other social media websites uses today to understand the behavior of their users and hopefully convert that into advertisement revenue or create emotional hooks by customizing user experience thereby making the user feel special.

The algorithms used for this purpose rely on the factor that we are all computer people, programmed to live our lives by faithfully following preset patterns. In the daily grind of our lives dictated to the final second by our own invention of time keeping, these search-algorithms are more successful than ever.

Let’s be capricious from time to time and confuse the mindless dots and dashes micro-analyzed by invisible people who pretend not to invade our privacy.

Google-search for things that has no relevance to our lives. Try to learn something new in the process. If you hate math, visit websites that teaches math and learn something new, there by breaking out of your familiar pattern. If you don’t like fiction, go online and buy a work of classic literature such as, “One Hundred Years of Solitude”, by Gabriel García Márquez and learn about Úrsula Buendía’s resourcefulness and why societies that live in isolation for one hundred years are bound to perish.

Change your birthday on Facebook every month and celebrate one birthday per month instead of one per year. Post pictures of people from history books and tell everyone that you are a member of some royal family. Change your name to reflect a different ethnicity every day. Let the algorithm go nuts, trying to figure out your skin color: red, blue, white, black, green, brown, grey, indigo, violet.

Let us all break free of the Matrix1 and turn into Keanu Reeves.

1 Refers to the Movie “Matrix”, released in 1999.
Related: Mr. Pariser explains how personal information is parsed by social media and search engines. Ted Talk: Eli Pariser