Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A Squirrel May be More Relevant than a Dying Child

"A squirrel dying in front of your house may be more relevant to your interests right now than people dying in Africa." -- Mark Zuckerberg
Living in a bubble, and dealing with them, is nothing new. This TED speaker seems to think that algorithms are in danger of keeping us from other opinions. We've done this for years. Universities and business refer to this peril as being in a silo--being sheltered from other aspects of the school or business and only knowing about the concerns your department or section is concerned about. Politics certainty does this--when is the last time Republicans have listened to someone other than other Republican ideas (unless it is to deride those ideas)? Same for the other side of the aisle. When is the last time Democrats have listened to something other than Democrats (unless, of course, it is to make fun of Republican ideas)?

The problem isn't algorithms. They are just reflecting what we humans do. The problem is humans. We tend to look for information that supports our opinions and ignore the rest. We tend to seek entertainment that is comfortable and familiar rather than look for for something that is challenging and different.

The question here for me is is two fold: (a) do you know the bubbles you are living in and (b) do you spend some time working to look outside your bubble. While the problem for me isn't an algorithm, one solution very well may be. Algorithms that support exposing us to the new, different, and novel can break us out of our bubbles. New businesses that curate ideas and products--and expose us to them in ways that help us discover new things are also an avenue of change.

What do you think?

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