Recently I read the book “Automate This – how algorithms came to rule the world” by Christopher Steiner.

It is an interesting book that touches many of the topics we at XBOSoft encounter daily.

Our society is undergoing rapid change by an increasing use of information technology in our daily and working lives. Some call this trend digitization, or software eating the world, and Steiner, uses the word automation and he explains the change via algorithms.

I agree with his premise, the world is changing because of increasing digitization, and I enjoyed reading Steiner’s examples of how much already has changed.

What I missed in this book though, is what we can and should do to manage this change. When software is involved in a larger part of our lives, and is handling very important aspects such as finance and healthcare, how do we ensure the quality of that software?

In the book Steiner gives examples of important tasks that are now handled using software. And he understands what could happen. “Algorithms normally behave as they’re designed …but left unsupervised, algorithms can and will do strange things…As we put more of our world under the control of algorithms, we can lose track of who – or what – is pulling the strings.” But does not go further than describing different instances of the progress of algorithms in our lives.

Pulling Strings

It is also interesting that Steiner is using the pulling the strings analogy which implies that there is something pulling. And I am not saying that it is not possible that algorithms or information is purposely used with bad intent yet what we often encounter and what often are the hardest issues to deal with are the unexpected outcomes. Those issues that are not in the specifications.

It is a good book but part 2 still needs to be written.