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Thursday, November 21, 2019

Of Love Lives, Fake News & Data Privacy: Cambridge Mathematician on How Algorithms Govern Our Lives | News18

Simantini Dey, reports, Cambridge Professor Piers Bursill-Hall explains how Maths has come to play a crucial part in our love lives, how it has unwittingly fostered fake news, sexist and racist biases, and why the battle for data privacy has already been lost. 

Photo: Representative Image (AFP Relaxnews)
If you are one of those who had spent considerable years of your school life fretting over numbers and were incredibly happy to drop Maths as a subject, there’s some bad news in store: You may have left numbers but they surely haven't left you or stopped governing your life.

As your virtual life becomes more important than your real world, and you spend more time on social media, adopt e-banking, do your business or buy health insurance online, sign-up on dating apps, use online cab services, or buy books online, and research on search engines -- each and every digital footprint of yours is dictated by a set of complex algorithms (constructed by various mathematical calculations), that influences your personal choices to a great extent, and is slowly changing not just your own life, but also the fabric of our society. We all know it, but we rarely pay any heed to the extent of this technological encroachment, which has begun to define our lives now...

In an interview to, Piers Bursill-Hall, a professor of History of Mathematics in the Department of Pure Mathematics at the University of Cambridge, who was in India recently for the Tata Lit Fest, 2019, explained how mathematics plays a crucial part in our love life, how it has unwittingly fostered fake news, sexist and racist biases, and more importantly, why the battle for privacy of data has already been lost...

"You cannot eliminate the human flaws from algorithms. This is the absolute and brutal truth. Interestingly, when this issue of human biases was being discussed in the parliament in Britain, one of the parliamentarians suggested that 'why don't we just write an algorithm which checks the algorithms for their biases?' But, obviously, that algorithm will be written by another human being too, and therefore will be quite fallible in catching biases itself…. That’s the thing, members of any government does not understand technology very well. When are we going to get someone who can code in C++ in the cabinet?” asked the Cambridge professor. 

Source: News18