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Algorithms of Pain

The quest to compile, index, and contextually deliver all information at all time to all comers has been approached as if it were an engineering puzzle, something to get better at, a noble goal in itself.

This talk is about the emotional collateral damage of emotionally tone-deaf algorithms in my own experience.

LinkedIn presented as “people you may know” the full name and picture of the woman my boyfriend was leaving me for, information I would have never sought out and can never un-know. Google placed helpful ads next to my webmail and on various sites with teasers such as “Is He Cheating On You?” and “12 Ugly Mistakes Women Make.” Google unilaterally began to “personalize my results” by showing me what my friends had searched for, and thus I learned they were looking for an apartment. I uninstalled Latitude from my phone and erased all data, but Google changed its privacy policy, and when I went to my “Dashboard” to adjust my privacy settings, there was a Latitude map, with his icon, at 7am, asleep in the new apartment with the new love.

In each case, I sought out no information, had opted out with every setting I could find, had done the best I could to protect myself emotionally. And each case resulted in excruciating emotional pain, lost productivity, and a sense of hopelessness against the big data Goliath.

Redeeming feature of talk: neither as wincingly overshare-y nor as shrinking-violet Luddite as one might fear. I have a light, wry, elliptical delivery style.


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