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Personalisation, danger and opportunity

Algorithms sort the information presented to each user. But because there are “type 3” services, it is possible to customise the information, advertising or not, that they are offered.

As a result, each user is exposed to different information. The more we look at information, the more the same type of information will be promoted by algorithms, and the more we will look at the same type of information, thus locking ourselves in very comfortable “bubbles”, well away from information that could challenge our own ideas. In some cases, recommendation algorithms lead to radicalisation.

Of course, this phenomenon is only a reflection of what users are looking for. Besides, this phenomenon has always existed: didn’t one choose one’s newspaper and one’s company according to one’s taste? Didn’t we always (statistically again) have a certain communautarist tendency to seek opinions similar to ours rather than to confront opposites?

But before, there were on the one hand a relatively limited number of sources of information, and on the other hand a certain locality of this information. Few television channels, few radio stations, a handful of newspapers. Many of us found ourselves, on a defined territory, sharing a common “world map”.

This is no longer the case: each user is also a potential source of information for others (we talk about “friends” or “followers” on social networks). Even language is no longer a barrier given the ubiquity of English and the accuracy of automated translation.

As a result, two neighbours may have very different “maps” of the world, and therefore their possibilities to exchange will be very limited. Each locked in his “bubble” of information, which does not intersect the “bubble” of the other. On the other hand, people on opposite sides of the world can find themselves in a shared “bubble” and have lots to discuss.

At the same time as personalisation brings problems of social unity and of governance in a territory, it allows everyone to find affinities throughout the world, creating understanding bridges and reducing the risks of conflict.

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