Algorithms rule our world and more and more often decisions and conclusions are made on the basis of information, data and technology. While this leads to an enormous increase in efficiency and brings many benefits to companies, it irritates some employees and users very much.
Together with the Bertelsmann Foundation, the AlgorithWatch organization has now published a new edition of their report “Automating Society”, in which they took a closer look at 16 countries and saw how automation is progressing there.
The topic, which is in the focus here, is to understand the difference between the automation of the society and the automated society. The biggest problem that the authors of the study identified is that there has been almost no social debate that illuminates and explains the advantages and disadvantages of automation.
“Only through an informed, inclusive, and evidence-based democratic debate can we find the right balance between the benefits that ADM systems can – and do – provide in terms of speed, efficiency, fairness, better prevention, and access to public services, and the challenges they pose to the rights of us all.”
Although there is a more lively debate in Germany, as Netzpolitik have aptly summarized the report, compared to other European countries, the topics of automation, technologies and algorithms rarely make it into the major newspapers or the headlines of the strongest news portals. In principle, according to the study
In principle, algorithmic decision systems (ADM systems) have the potential to improve people’s lives by processing huge amounts of data, helping people make decisions and providing tailored applications, but the study shows that there are few cases in the 16 countries studied where this has actually happened.
But they do exist: In Portugal, according to the analysis, a centralized, automated system used to deter medical prescription fraud has reduced cases by 80% in one year. But in order to deploy such systems globally and to create an understanding of the benefits of ADM systems, transparency and a rational decision on what works and what doesn’t work is needed.
The “Automating Society” also sees a major disadvantage in the terminology used. In reporting, very fuzzy terms and synonyms are often used, which make a uniform debate difficult and confuse the public. This not only watered down the topics, but citizens are also unable to really separate topics such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, digitization and the like.
In order to really make the best out of an increasingly automated world, the Bertelsmann Stiftung and AlgorithWatch appeal, it must be ensured that the public has a say, is involved in decision-making and is also informed. Together, we must take a rational look at the possibilities of technology, so that we can make a self-determined assessment of where the advantages and disadvantages lie.
Technology and automation must not be something that only experts understand, but must become an issue for the general public. Here – and this is my opinion as an innovation profiler and future strategist – there is a lot of room for improvement. With Medialist Innovation, my podcast and the workshops, consultations and keynotes I would like to enable every manager, employee and citizen to approach new technologies and trends. Rational and self-determined. Only when this becomes possible can digitization succeed.