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Posted by on May 17, 2011

TED Talk on algorithms and excessive customization: Learning opportunities in complexity

A fantastic TED talk about how information is filtered and how this affects our aspirational selves. How filters (both conscious and automated ones) affect our sense of self and our sense of place within society, how we don’t always see what we need to see, but rather what automated gatekeepers believe what we want to see. This is essentially the downside of relentless customization, this lack of introduction of contradictory information, information that challenges existing worldviews or expands cognitive capacity. 

As I always do, there are limitless learning manifestations that I immediastely gravitate towards. How filters can be introduced consciously based on immediate need as well as a sense of actualized activity, activity designed to introduce conflicting information, information that in turn forces us to reconfigure our worldviews, reanalyze a particular stance, or even merely overwhelms us. The downside of customization is excessive predictability and the need for systematic randomness (not a contradiction in terms). The need for complexity in terms of aggregared information sources, information sources that challenge a complex construction of knowledge. To know that a theory can still be valid and not work all the time, that there are ghosts in the cognitive machine that influence understanding and behavior.

Learning activity for a modern learner. Design your algorithm.  Account for categories of information that you want to filter. Pivot points in your search for types of information, tone of information, source of information, authority of information. Design an algorithm to fit certain learning outcome. Reverse engineer an algorithm to establish a valid set of resources for learning. Do it before it is done to you, for you, without you being challenged or improved by the process. How is this not a rich example of information literacy (reverse engineered)? Design the system that would retrieve the results that you want. 

And yes, the Netflix example is perfect. Ironman comes straight to you, unfettered. Roshomon is perpetually jostled about the queue. The difference between our desire for entertainment and our pursuit of self-actualization.

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