God Doesn’t Need Algorithms

Example of an algorithm by Jonathan

“For more and more companies, the hiring boss is an algorithm.”**

Algorithms increasingly direct hiring decisions, stock trading, and employee compensation.  They are used to evaluate music for potential “hit-appeal,” and to determine what shows up on your Facebook news feed.

Big Brother

My first reaction to the idea that automated algorithms have such big-brotherish influence is discomfort.  Who writes them and for what purpose?  Who interprets them?  A random programmer or analyst somewhere might have life changing effects on my life or yours.  It’s a little unnerving to be treated as a data point.

Objective Data

On the other hand, well collected and accurately analysed data can deliver decisions that might otherwise be influenced by very subjective human emotions or biases.  Managers might like to hire people with certain attributes or personalities when algorithms can identify that others are actually better suited to a particular job.  That feels a little better.

Interpreting or influencing?

There is a fine line between algorithms interpreting behavior and influencing it.  For example, the music industry uses algorithms to evaluate new music which will determine the music to which we are exposed thereby effectively narrowing the field of future music choices.  Similarly, Eli Pariser’s TED Talk on Filter Bubbles describes the phenomena of on line algorithms creating personal bubbles of one-sided news and information.

All of this is motivated by, you guessed it, money and power.  In our information saturated environment access to and strategic use of personal and collective data is valuable.  I don’t need an algorithm to solve that equation.

So, is the world ruled by algorithms?

Are individuals reduced to insignificant pieces of data to be mined, processed and sold?

Some would say, yes, and that we’d be wise to recognize that fact.

I say, “No.”

God does not need algorithms to rule the world. 

Humanity is not a potential profit pool to be analyzed and exploited by algorithms or anyone else for that matter.  God rules over all in wisdom, love, mercy and grace according to his purpose and for his glory.

You and I were uniquely created in the image of God.  He knows every detail about your personality, your skills, strengths and weaknesses, your victories and challenges.  He has plans for you that no algorithm will predict, determine or frustrate.

 God loves you.  He delights uniquely in you.

“O LORD, you have searched me and you know me…You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways…For you created me in my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made…” Psalm 139:1, 3, 13-14

**These thoughts on algorithms (not a topic I typically ponder) were inspired by my husband, who after reading the Wall Street Journal on Thursday pointed out several related articles to me with the helpful phrase, “Might be blog fodder.”  For some interesting reading, and to duly cite my sources, check out these links: “Companies Trade In Hunch-Based Hiring For Computer Modeling” (the source for the introductory quote) by Joseph Walker;  “Algorithms Upend the Way Workers Are Paid.” by Rachel Emma Silverman;  “The Tyranny of Algorithms” Evgeny Morozov’s book review of  Automate This: How Algorithms Came to Rule our World by Christopher Steiner.

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About Judy

At heart I am a student of truth, an observer of culture, and a communicator. Jesus is my teacher and my Lord. In pursuit of these passions, I read as much as I can, serve as Teaching Director for a Community Bible Study group, and write a blog in an attempt to synthesize it all. I take great delight in my relationships with family and friends, and I also enjoy long walks, bike rides and cooking. And did I mention that I like to read?
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10 Responses to God Doesn’t Need Algorithms

  1. danrobb007 says:

    I love the phrase “God loves you, He delights uniquely in you.” Wow! Took me so long to figure that out. Thanks for that.

  2. Judy, your points lead us straight to the Lord’s point of view – the place to be.
    By the way, it was so interesting to learn that the use of (these somewhat frightening) algorithms isn’t always a negative thing, but can prevent bias.
    Thank you!
    Maria

  3. Caddo Veil says:

    Hi Shannon! My head was spinning (in ignorance) until I got to the end of the post–the happy ending, as it were. I’m so glad God is sovereign–and that, as far as I know, He isn’t requiring me to learn about algorithms (which I misspelled on the first go–algorhythms–must be the poet in me). And I absolutely love that your husband reads the paper with an eye to suggesting blog posts–what a guy!! God bless you both today–love, sis Caddo

  4. Larry Who says:

    If algorithms were used to design a bumble bee, the result would not look like a bumble bee. Yet, because God designed bumble bees, the animal flies and zips around the countryside. The same is true for us uniquely designed humans.

    Good post.

    • Judy says:

      So true, Larry. I’m so thankful God is bigger than our limiting formulas and algorithms. Have a great day!

      • Larry Who says:

        Speaking of technology, I’ve had trouble with receiving email notifications to the blogs I follow, like yours. So I apologize to everyone for filling their emails up with subscription confirmations. I should have it fixed after the next one.

  5. As always, very thought provoking and well-written. Thank you! Automatically, my heart went straight to the saying that “He does not call the qualified, rather He qualifies the called.” I am so thankful that God does not rely on algorithms! :)

    • Judy says:

      Hi Shannon, So true! In fact, any algorithm worth its code would spit out as unqualified most of the people God chooses to use. I love that He flips the wisdom of the world on its head. Have a great day, Shannon! Judy

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