Written by Books

Hello World by Hannah Fry

Hello World

Having previously read and very much enjoyed (if that’s the right phrase) Cathy O’Neill’s Weapons of Math Destruction I wasn’t sure if Hello World was going to tell the same story.

These are both books about the dangers of artificial intelligence – or more specifically machine learning – that is behind so much of what happens in our lives today. Algorithms that determine Spotify playlists and what we see on the Netflix homescreen seem incidental enough, but when it impact on health or jurisprudence then there are bigger issues.

Fry’s book tells the story well in an eminently readable style. It comes in post-Cambridge Analytica world (O’Neill’s book predates that scandal), and Fry does give both sides of the coin a fair hearing.

I think that O’Neill takes a much firmer view of things – getting into the issues around “black box” solutions where the underlying algorithms are considered intellectual property that can’t be publicly examined. That then means that there can no be real independent analysis of a proposed software solution ahead of time.

But that said, the book is well worth reading given the importance of machine learning in all our lives. The recent debate – if we can call it that – around facial recognition being used overtly by security cameras, is just the latest iteration of that.