Algorithms: challenge and solution of our time

by Redazione LineaEDP 14/06/2022 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Algorithms are changing our present and shaping our future. Here is a reflection by Pedro Garcia, CEO of Minsait in Italy

Pedro Garcia, CEO of Minsait in Italy We live in the midst of a great industrial revolution, the fourth in history, which is driving our economies and societies with unprecedented speed. Enabled by the exponential improvement of hyper-connectivity, digitalization is set to consolidate, by the end of this decade, as the main engine of progress in the world. In this scenario, the algorithms that are changing our present and shaping our future reveal themselves, like a contemporary Janus, as the main sources of challenges for our societies and, at the same time, as the key tools for their resolution. Algorithms play, in our days, the role of pharmakon that, for Plato, writing played towards memory: an element capable of weakening it and, at the same time, of avoiding the risk of oblivion. Or like beer for Homer Simpson, which is both "the cause and the solution of the world's major problems." This double face is evident in the field of cybersecurity, one of the main challenges of our time. Digitalization, accelerated in recent years also by the pandemic, has made it possible to create new business models and agile remote working methods. But it has also opened the door to new threats and vulnerabilities. According to the Clusit report , in 2021 cyber attacks in the world have increased by 10% and are increasingly sophisticated. In fact, last year 79% of detected attacks had a high impact, an increase of 29% compared to 2020. The solution to this scenario of increased risk is, of course, an adequate technological investment, accompanied by a change in the approach to threats, moving from a tactical to a strategic vision. The double face of technology is also evident in the great challenge of our time: sustainability. Thus, Cloud, Blockchain, Internet of Things and Big Data technologies, among others, have contributed in recent years to creating incremental innovations aimed at drastically limiting the CO2 footprint of our companies. But, at the same time, they have generated new energy consumption challenges arising from data storage and transmission, which we are still trying to solve. What? Of course with new technological developments. The use of digital technologies and in particular algorithms to solve the great challenges of our time also reveals another essential aspect of our particular contemporary Janus: its intrinsically political character. Algorithms – not only the use we make of them, but themselves – are political to the extent that they shape a certain social order and to the extent that they are the result of the order in which they were designed. Algorithms, in fact, are not neutral, they are the result of the work of people with cultural biases, preferences, prejudices, strengths and weaknesses and are produced within a determined social and economic structure, often characterized by strong inequalities. Presenting algorithms as neutral tools is a political artifice laden with ideological significance. Just as it is a political choice to limit algorithmic governance to consumer satisfaction alone, confusing commercial efficiency with democratic expediency. The algorithm is a political tool: it is both the result and the creator of a social order. Consequently, we must be able to participate, as a society, in the decision of the teleological sense that we want to give to algorithms. Without accepting, or taking for granted, a seemingly "natural" end. The political sense of algorithms – and, in general, of technology – must be the result of a democratic discussion on the model of society that we want to build and from which we want the technology of our future to be born. On this depend the challenges we will have to face in the future and the success in solving them. by Pedro Garcia, CEO of Minsait in Italy