On 6 October 2017 I was invited by the Eurovision Academy to give a speech at their General Assembly in Vilnius (Lithuania). The Eurovision Academy is the department, within the European Broadcasting Union, that is responsible for training employees from membres (public service media) and making sure all of them have the opportunity to keep up to date with the latest techniques in terms of employee development. They do a terrific job and have helped introduced some very useful techniques within the broadcasting world like design thinking (check out their course on this subject).
I had the privilege to close the conference and chose to address the issue of education of younger audiences to modern information retrieval technologies, i.e. algorithms. As I’ve explained in many other conferences and workshops we are surrounded by algorithm-based technologies. If you’re reading this article this is probably you found a link in a search engine. A search engine is nothing but a very complex recommendation algorithm. It recommends, depending on your past consumption history and other variables (like your location) the most relevant content for you. Because recommendation algorithms are so pervasive, I argued that we need to educate citizens.
I borrowed research results from Kahan (2015) to show how beliefs and culture influenced ordinary science intelligence (actually this piece of research is so important that I’m thinking of writing a dedicated article to it). In short Kahan (2015) showed that political or religious beliefs will lead to lower likelihood of giving the right answer to questions like
- “Human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals.” (True/false)
- “[Is the earth] getting warmer (a) mostly because of human activity such as burning fossil fuels or (b) mostly because of natural patterns in the earth’s environment?”
Public Service Media, which serve the interest of the society, have the mission to educate people and make sure no false beliefs develop that may harm the society. While it may be 2000 years too late to reverse the clock of religion (Darwin was right, we evolved from earlier species and were not created by God), it’s still time to make sure citizens understand the positive and negative aspects of algorithms and use them to the best of their interests.
Educating citizens on harnessing the power of algorithms is important to ensure that they
- retrieve efficiently the information they are looking for and thus stay better informed
- avoid filter bubbles (on filter bubble see this article on their categorization, as well as the debate on whether filter bubbles exist)
- identify and avoid fake news
I’m glad to make this presentation available to anyone interested in the topic (see below).
image : shutterstockTags: market research belgium, media