Algorithms: what are they? What can they do?

At its most basic, an algorithm is a procedure to solve a problem. A computer program can be a procedure to solve a problem expressed in a computer language. On many social media and digital commerce sites (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Netflix, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and on and on), algorithms control how users experience the sites–what they see, the options they are offered, who they communicate…

See more

Ransomware: malware and cybercrime

What exactly is ransomware? And what happens in a ransomware attack? What does research say about ransomware and the pervasive and increasing threat and damage caused by cybercrime? Featured articles (these articles have been added to the Science Primary Literature database): *Bae, S. I., Gyu, B. L., & Im, E. G. (2020). Ransomware detection using machine learning algorithms. Concurrency and Computation, 32(18), e5422. [Cited by]…

See more

E-mail and work: enhancing productivity or source of stress?

E-mail … we hate it, we love it. We use it, we have to use it. Or, do we? Is it essential to work? Does it really enhance productivity? Or, does it ramp up stress, cause health problems, and actually reduce work productivity? Is there a better way to do work? What does the research say? Featured articles (these articles have been added to the…

See more

Technology will not protect us from human weakness–and can make it worse

“When we think about misinformation … we tend to focus on the presence of bad information — but really we should be focusing on the presence of doubt.” “A platform like YouTube or Facebook can claim to be building a “marketplace of ideas” by algorithmically presenting, say, a story about a new vaccine alongside a story claiming vaccines are dangerous. But what it is really…

See more

Is Facebook hazardous to our well-being?

Is use of Facebook (and other social media sites) a genuine hazard to our physical and mental health? Are the purported benefits of digital social media outweighed by the risks? Past research has found negatives and some positives. “Prior research has shown that the use of social media may detract from face-to-face relationships, reduce investment in meaningful activities, increase sedentary behavior by encouraging more screen…

See more

Updated: Chatbots — propaganda is being taught how to speak

Bots–“simple computer scripts–were originally designed to automate repetitive tasks … sparing humans hours of tedium.”  But, bots “can also be used to operate large numbers of fake [social media] accounts, which makes them ideal for manipulating people.” As became evident after the 2016 election in the United States and from many other examples, not only do bot-operated fake social media accounts “broadcast extremist viewpoints,” but…

See more