Algorithms are not magic nor mysterious. They are simply routines that are followed to achieve certain ends. They are somewhat synonymous with computer programs. Algorithms allow us to carry out massive complex tasks at high speed always achieving the same end. They don't make mistakes, people do.
Today, algorithms are pervasive and generally invisible. Bar code readers at the grocery till quickly and efficiently calculate what you owe. Your credit card electronically accepts the due amount on your account and off you go. Auto parts designed in software programs are manufactured by machine tools using the data sent by the software. Parts made this way are essentially flawless no matter how many are made. Mark Zuckerberg used a modified version of an algorithm for playing chess to rate the sexual attractiveness of coeds and this led to Facebook. Is there a problem here?
You bet there is! First, it's people who input data into the algorithmic world. If the data is bogus or useless or contrived then what comes out the other end is at best misleading. Hence the old computer programmers acronym, GIGO, "Garbage in Garbage Out" Then, there are the algorithms themselves. Algorithms don't think! They just do what they do. Yes, they assure that Fedex is able to deliver and Walmart is able to distribute and they do have great value until they are misapplied.
You see algorithms can be very valuable so they become proprietary. They belong to someone, some company. They are owned and held as secret. They become invisible. Your infamous credit score is most likely generated by the FICO algorithm. FICO is a software company based in San Jose, California and founded by Bill Fair and Earl Isaac in 1956. Its FICO score, a measure of consumer credit risk, has become a fixture for the determination of consumer lending. Even the banks who help to feed your credit information to Transunion, Experian, and Equifax are not allowed to see the algorithm. If the algorithm starts to apparently falter, the company simply fixes it out of sight of prying eyes.
A proprietary algorithm owned by Driveable Inc. an Alberta Company is used to help determine if elderly drivers in British Columbia should keep their right to drive. Considering what data goes into the algorithm and the algorithm itself, the results could likely be bogus. Still, the government loves it even though it is not allowed to see the data or the algorithm. Transparency is forbidden. Transfer this to public medicine and you may discover that patients are in palliative care simply because the algorithm put them there. If any of this is true, Is it only the tip of the iceberg?