Susanne Krasmann, Professor at the Faculty of Economy and Social Sciences (Criminology) Hamburg University
The future of big data and algorithms is often associated with a double imagery: on the one hand, algorithms by themselves seem to assume agency in the black box of the computer. Their operations are invisible and incomprehensible to most of us. On the other hand, algorithms raise the hope that society be rendered transparent and thus governable, to the extent that the social sciences might become obsolete. Yet, algorithms do not just represent reality, they create a particular reality. Although, in a way, seeming to be smarter than us, they also reduce "our" world according to their own "protocologics". The lecture analyses the different style of reasoning algorithms engage in, compared to human sense making. Algorithms, it is argued, have no secrets, but they may be seductive: once we attribute them the ability to speak the truth and once we concede them the right to decide on the fate of ourselves, or others. Instead of overestimating algorithms' anonymous power, we should recognize their skills for what they are - while making ourselves being aware of the political implications.