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Wharton Digital Press  |  March 12, 2019

Wharton Professor Kartik Hosanagar Examines the Threat of Algorithms in His New Book

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A Human's Guide to Machine Intelligence book cover, Kartik HosanagarAlgorithms are controlling more and more of our lives. A Wharton professor and tech entrepreneur’s new book looks at how we can stay in control.

Whether we know it or not, algorithms—and the artificial intelligence behind them—are having more and more of an influence on the simplest and most complex aspects of our everyday lives.

There’s your next Netflix show. Your next Amazon purchase. Your Tinder date this weekend.

Then there are your investments. Your chances of getting hired. And the way you get your news.

Kartik Hosanagar, the John C. Hower Professor of Technology and Digital Business and a professor of marketing at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, explores the growing impact of AI and algorithms in his new book, A Human’s Guide to Machine Intelligence: How Algorithms Are Shaping Our Lives and What We Can Do to Control Them (March 12, 2019; Viking).

Hosanagar details how algorithms are perceived as objective decision-makers—but are, in reality, susceptible to many of the same biases humans exhibit. He examines how they affect the lives of one individual—using the daily routine of a Penn student—and millions, exploring the 2010 Flash Crash that wiped out trillions of dollars from the stock market in a matter of minutes.

“But the biggest cause for concern, in my opinion, is not that algorithms have biases … but that we are more susceptible to biases in algorithms than in humans,” he writes.

There are two reasons for this, he says: Because algorithms from tech behemoths like Facebook and Google have become ever-present in the lives of billions of people. And because “we tend to believe that algorithms are predictable and rational.”

But Hosanagar says algorithms have many negative side effects that represent a potential threat. Hosanagar leaves readers with a proposed Bill of Rights that would limit algorithms’ power and serve as a check that would help people stay in control of their lives.

To learn more, visit A Human’s Guide to Machine Intelligence: How Algorithms Are Shaping Our Lives and What We Can Do to Control Them.