Despite growing concerns about the intrusion of algorithms into everyday life, people tend to trust a computer program more than their brethren, researchers at the University of Georgia have found.
From picking the next song on your playlist to picking the right pants size, people rely more on algorithmic advice to help make day-to-day decisions and make life easier.
“Algorithms can perform a huge number of tasks, and the number is increasing almost every day,” explains researcher Eric Bogert of the University of Georgia. “There seems to be a tendency to rely more on algorithms as the task gets more complex than on other people’s advice,” Bogert added.
In a study published in Scientific Reports, the team recruited 1,500 people.
The researchers asked the volunteers to count the number of people in the crowd photo and provided two kinds of clues. Some were created by a group of other people, while others were created using an algorithm. As the number of people in the photo increased, counting became more and more difficult. As a result, people were more likely to follow the clues that the algorithm generated than to trust themselves or the “wisdom of the crowd.”
The study raises important questions about the ubiquitous use of algorithms in people’s daily lives.
For example, face recognition algorithms have already become the subject of intense scrutiny in recent years. The point is that their use revealed cultural biases in their construction.