Is algorithm soaring and even breaking our status quo digitally?

Algorithm, a good thing or bad?

“The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race…. It would take off on its own, and re-design itself at an ever increasing rate. Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn’t compete, and would be superseded.”

Words from one of the most brilliant scientists Stephen Hawking blew up everyone’s mind about the future. Since the mass media and big data revolution have become the social norm, brand-new advanced technologies have unconsciously emerged in every corner as digitalization expands. Then algorithms are gradually taking over the whole world from workspaces, homes, schools to events, campaigns, and all sorts of projects. Artificial intelligence, as one of the most controversial applications of that, has thus been regarded as a huge threat for human beings just as Hawking quoted above. In this context, we people always wondering that is algorithm soaring and even breaking our status quo digitally? Let’s see…

What is Algorithm?

According to the famous Cambridge Dictionary, the word “Algorithm” refers to a set of mathematical instructions or rules that, especially if given to a computer, will help to calculate an answer to a problem. As we can see from the early academic explanation here, the invention of Algorithm was definitely for good: offering some help to solve problems. Looking at many handy applications that we use every day such as the Siri in Apple ecosystem and Bixby for Samsung devices, people could clearly define that these algorithm-based AI assistants are useful tools to go with digital platforms or gadgets for our life convenience. However, since then, the status of primary earth citizens, human beings ourselves, has gradually been weakened somehow as AI is sweeping through basically all fields in reality. Viewing from a more technical perspective, it was defined as “a reliability and competence can be produced which far surpasses the highest level that human experts can reach.” (Crawford, 2021) The hint of “AI power over human” appears…

How does AI affect the world?

Do you know that actually AI is surrounding you everywhere and all day long? As its biggest enemies, some may strictly refuse to be carried this accusation, claiming that they rarely use those eye-catching applications like Chat GPT, Mid Journey or PlayHT in daily life. AI is more than that. Expanding from your phone, computer, smart watch, its universality may shock every algorithm newcomer. Submerging in this AI-filled world, the influence has augmented accordingly as well.

On Government: Efficiency and Surveillance

As an essential pillar underpinned the national machine, the government has also tried its best to follow this digital trend: aggregating algorithms into every step of administrative procedures. People have long complained about the government’s work efficiency, which is extremely common for most countries around the world. To solve this problem, AIs, together equipped with statistical tools, help those civil servants with collecting, sorting, and replying to citizens’ feedback. Also, most of the government services, usually those tedious red tape involved, have successfully been streamlined and distributed to relieve the toils of human workers. Through its own online digital platforms, individual inquiries and applications can be answered or finalized thoroughly without even stepping out from your room. All these conveniences are visible, but still hiding something behind.

Under this context, we started to question about the ordinary’s privacy. Is there something digital catching our information secretly? Does the government apply our own private cases in other fields? Problems like these are rising as well. Concerns about government surveillance and the potential implications or harm that could come to the public may also cause political turmoil among us. Taking huge search engines like Google or Bing as an example, users always rate the search outcome that they get from the engines really high blindly according to Pew’s studies. Thus if unregulated search engines twist themselves out of malevolence, it could pose a serious threat to the whole democratic system of government. (Noble, 2018) Potential dangers may also appear from the source. With multiple national or governmental secrets implanted within the administrative system, essential information now may be largely in charge by machines somehow for enhancing workplace productivity and alleviating employees’ pressure. Then, troubles are triggered. People are worrying about their own privacy issues, complaining on those often-seen non-human interactions with no feelings, even overthrowing the current governor for the worst scenario… Everything is possible in the Generation Z’s grasp!

On Business: AI-based Recommendation

When we gradually get used to seek help from digital platforms in lives, various enterprises find this god-given chance. Advanced algorithms are widely adopted in all business fields from account settling to transaction making. Since then, academic research on automated technologies has increased dramatically.

For offline digital transformation, AI-powered physical retail stores can help in anticipating customer demand, automation of store operations, customer engagement, customer personalization and price optimization, thus uplifting their working efficiency to a next level. (Pillai, 2020). Examples such as Amazon Go and Suning Dianqi in China all present a futuristic ways for commercialization with no lives involved. For online side, the large-scale recommendation mechanism supported by big data has long worked as an underlying catalyst to promote consumption. In this aspect, a thorough survey about online recommendation system conducted by scholars from Centre for Quantum Computation & Intelligent Systems provided us a clear picture, introducing common techniques used today such as content-based, computational intelligence-based, and E-business systems. (Lu et al., 2015) Even though they are all utilized among different fields, a similarity that has been shared with each other: big data. First, these digital platforms collect, sort and rank information like personal preferences and search results online through big data-supported algorithms. Then advanced AI will be adopted to further analyze users’ behaviors, thus offering a whole list or a full rank of recommended products on the platforms. Finally in this way, an alleged “highly customized customer service framework” just comes in shape.

That is also the same when choosing your favorite movies or dramas in online streaming platform like Youtube and Netflex. Your clicks and viewing records on their researching sites could all be taken into consideration when the platform deciding the next recommended works for you only. It may depend on the overall drama genres: whether you like to click on comedies more or on thrillers? Another popular recommended benchmark that whose platform algorithms would largely be encrypted into their own system is celebrity information. The social media or video platforms may give the audience a customized pop-up movie recommendation according to your celebrity preference. These personal preferences could be those demonstrated directly in this streaming website or your personal profile made on other social accounts which are affiliated with the same parent company as that of this online streaming platforms. All in all, the whole algorithm system here the platforms use is one great way for you to see only the things you want, instead of those you originally find it boring or dull, ,making a completely comfort zone for both users and businesses to focus their eyes on certain fields and relatively excel at their own target markets.

On Us: Filter Bubble

At first, these nearly isolated bubbles may not exert so much influence on our personal well-being. Normally, we will all live in a repeated life for all aspects: work, school, home… Multiple things may duplicate one by one in all life scenarios without alerting us in advance. The only thing that we could notice for a bit may be all those homogenized words, comments, images, and social media accounts that the platforms have recommended. But even in the first place of this information homogenization, we as the audience would find it more pleasant because it will not take us more time and effort to scroll through all the contents we love in this already harsh reality. The Internet should give us convenience. That is what more people may consider as one important benefit of absorbing those similar texts and images online. Kind of the same, but in a more pleasant way. “Great minds think alike”—you may feel shocked involuntarily after scrolling through these posts online. However, I believe that basically anyone who has spent time following hotspots on social media keenly will understand that exposure to countervailing views and evidence rarely leads to careful reconsideration and thoughtful deliberation rather than a further hardening of people’s positions. (Andrejevic, 2019) In this way, people’s mindsets and ideas may gradually be isolated and trapped, leading to a stubborn and single-minded society even in an increasingly diverse world. Those targeted ads and contents may appear as a completely isolated vacuum bubble like this, burdening more laziness on the human brain and giving little room for human ideas to flow.

Now, let’s focus on ourselves. Living in the digital era, what we cherish the most is surly the small handy gadget called smart phone. Embedded with the Internet, digital applications of all kinds have played the biggest role in reforming the public’s daily life. Submerging in the data flood, digital users find themselves busy absorbing information from elsewhere, thus making it harder to subjectively distinguish them. One of the most important concepts called “filter bubble”, which refers to a state of intellectual isolation that results from personalized searches, recommendation systems, and algorithmic curation, has clearly demonstrated the huge impact that algorithms make on us. A vicious cycle would be invented as algorithms only pop up what you want, and what you have already seen, to the same person, without offering any chance to take a glance at the opposite edge. It could bring a misleading effect on our human brain as well. (Praiser, 2011)

Is It a Friend or an Enemy?

Going through all these previous sections mentioned above, it is so clear that algorithms have already underpinned various changes in daily lives. So, can we call it as the friendly? or the aggressive? When it comes to algorithmic governance, I must bring it on stage as a cliche: it’s a double-edged sword that requires fine regulation. According to Just and Latzer, there is a correlation between algorithms and our society. This basic co-evolutionary governance framework of interrelated technological or algorithmic and societal change can be described as a multi-direction cycle. (See Figure 1 as follows) The developers are in charge of intertwining all social, cultural, economic and political elements that they grasp into the well-designed algorithms. Then relying on this high tech’s self-learning capability, the desired contents will be shown right in front of digital users, further forming a stronger social wall in reality. At last, these built-in social and digital norms would in turn affect the developers and their affiliated institutions. Therefore, from an institutional perspective, technologies like algorithms are both instruments and outcomes of governance; they are part and result of a co-evolutionary process. (Just & Latzer, 2019)

Maybe right now, my answer to this question is: AI is standing in the middle of an intersection. Right for a friend and left for the enemy. The next step totally depends on us.

Figure 1 (Just and Lazter, 2019)


Surprisingly and at the same time unsurprisingly, originally invented as a digital problem-solving mechanism, algorithms have been sweeping through a wide range of daily activities. Adopting this advanced data-based technology, all layers in society from governmental decisions to individual daily routines have all benefitted a lot for the increased efficiency and convenience. However, many following disadvantages come into being as well. Unregulated governance system, personal privacy loophole, monotonous business vision and overpolluted environmental problem together make us feel extremely worried about the essence of AI. Promote or eliminate? It becomes a multiple-choice test for the world to solve. So far, back to the main one in title: Is algorithm soaring and even breaking our status quo digitally? Yes, definitely yes. Does this trend demonstrate as positive or not? Then, it is our effort that matters. As the developers and ultimate users of one technology, we human beings carry the responsibility to work through all those processes, soliciting a potentially dangerous future enemy back on track to be a complete helper. Let’s see; the future is now on us.


Andrejevic, M. (2019), ‘Automated Culture’, in Automated Media. London: Routledge, pp. 44-72.

Crawford, K. (2021) The Atlas of AI: Power, Politics, and the Planetary Costs of Artificial Intelligence. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, pp. 1-21.

Flew, T. (2021) Regulating Platforms. Cambridge: Polity, pp. 79-86.

Just, N., & Latzer, M. (2019) ‘Governance by algorithms: reality construction by algorithmic selection on the Internet’, Media, Culture & Society 39(2), pp. 238-258.

Lu, J., Wu, D., Mao, M., Wang, W., & Zhang, G. (2015). Recommender system application developments: a survey. Decision support systems, 74, 12-32.

Noble, S. U. (2018) A society, searching. In Algorithms of Oppression: How search engines reinforce racism. New York: New York University. pp. 15-63.

Pariser, E. 2011. The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding From You. New York, NY: Penguin Press.

Pillai, R., Sivathanu, B., & Dwivedi, Y. K. (2020). Shopping intention at AI-powered automated retail stores (AIPARS). Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, 57, 102207.

Rory, C. (2014, Dec 2). Stephen Hawking warns artificial intelligence could end mankind. BBC.

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