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Algorithms Can Be Our Friends

“An algorithm is a sequence of instructions to perform a task,” pretty simple really eh and yet the term algorithms is beginning to be demonised more and more because of the use that some people are making of them. Algorithms on social media platforms are an example. They collect as much data about a person as possible and sell it to the highest bidder. Why, because bulk data about individuals is more valuable than oil or gold, and that’s the sad truth.
This, combined with the the techno-phobic idea that algorithm driven A.I. is capable of taking over our lives, making us into human slaves who’s only purpose is to do their bidding, is giving the idea of these sometimes simple pieces of code a bad name. Mention the word A.I. and people often hit the fear button automatically, when in fact A.I. (artificial intelligence) always needs human input somewhere along the line to function.

Recently I’ve been using an online program called Midjourney. This program uses algorithms to create images. Nothing demonic unless of course the user wants to create images of demons (and it’s surprising how many people do) but the algorithm itself will create any image at all that it is instructed to and this is the thing about algorithms that many people don’t seem to understand, they can in fact be our friends, making many things possible in a short time that would previously have taken a long time.
Computer Operating systems on PCs, phones and tablets all use algorithms to enable us to get where we want to go in Cyberspace, modern cars use algorithms, checkouts, banks, power grids, the internet and the list goes on.

Is there a danger?

Dependency, that is the danger associated with algorithms. Digital artists are now finding they can create beautiful and complex works of art via ‘text to image’ commands, making the old way of spending loads of time and resources redundant, but if that algorithm technology is no longer available, disaster. Midjourney for example is an online service. Should the internet go down or the company go bust, the skills associated with that particular text to image software become redundant.
Also pricing, once hooked, will companies get greedy and load on the cost of using their software in order to become mega rich. It has happened before.
As we become more and more immeshed in the WWW the tools we use in life are becoming dependant on that realm but the tools themselves are not the cause of such a dependence, it is our embracing of a particular way of life that is the cause. And that may not be a bad thing either, if the results we can achieve are pleasing and of use.

Algorithms are improving

Algorithms are improving all of the time as programmers discover new ways to develop features in the datascape world they live in, and as that happens then the skills that humans require to make use of such tools also needs to improve and change. Take text to image for example. The use of keyword text is a burgeoning skill. In ‘text to image’ art you get what you ask for (or something similar) and so what you ask for is paramount to the program’s ability to produce it. “A landscape with a tree on it”, will produce a much different image to “a rolling landscape with a tree in the foreground and a stream nearby on a hot summers day with long grass and birds in a blue sky with white clouds.”
So the skills to instruct algorithms what to do are becoming a new skillset, one that can require as much imagination and artistic ability to implement as creating a painting on a canvas with acrylics.

Algorithms are ushering us into an exciting new creative future, we need not see them as demonic, what we do need to do, is be prepared to meet the challenge of mastering new tools.

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