Dr. Massimo Mazzotti of The University of Berkeley – Algorithmic Life

Dr. Massimo Mazzotti of The University of Berkeley – Algorithmic Life

STACK & FLOW: The Sales & Marketing Technology Cast

MarTech Series presents Stack & Flow, a podcast series hosted by MTS Expert – Infer’s Sean Zinsmeister and EventHero’s John Wall.

Featuring Dr. Massimo Mazzotti

Massimo Mazzotti’s research interests lie at the intersection of the history of science and science studies. He is especially interested in the historicity and situatedness of mathematics, logic, and deductive reasoning, and in the social processes that can make them universally valid. He is also interested in using technological systems and artifacts as ways of entry for the explorations of specific forms of social organization and power distribution. His past and present research projects have focused primarily on the early modern and Enlightenment period, with significant incursions into the nineteenth and twentieth century.

In this special episode, Dr. Mazzotti talks about Algorithmic Life and:

  • The changing definition of intelligence
  • Political effects of algorithms
  • A historical perspective on AI
  • The Clock as technical disruption


Key Excerpts from STACK & FLOW with Dr. Massimo Mazzotti

Stack & Flow has covered Artificial Intelligence, algorithms and innovations in the daily life. The show has talked how AI  makes a valuable impact on businesses, especially on marketing and sales technologies. Having Dr. Mazzotti on the show helps dig deeper into how AI and algorithms are coming of age, based on their historical and sociological footprints.

In order to really understand what is really going on (in AI), I wanted to have more insights on the academic and historical background of Algorithms. Dr. Mazzotti’s piece — Algorithmic Life, helps understand AI from sociology angle as well.”- Stack & Flow Host and Infer’s VP, Sean Zinsmeister

Dr. Massimo Mazzotti, in the show, talks about the ever-changing boundaries of technology. His research is based on concepts of rationality and irrationality, and why we place a certain degree of trust on technologies. Technologies change with time, as they are distinguished between local and universal disciplines, intersecting with anthropology and sociology factors.

How is Algorithm defined?

Algorithmic Life very much speaks about identifying how algorithms are defined- which has changed significantly in last 20 years. Algorithms can be basically defined by the modes how you use the word, which could be how you speak, write and interact with them.

AI 101, Part I: What You Need to Know about Predictive Models

AI 101, Part II: How to Deal with Data Preparation

As a science student, an algorithm was taught to me as a recipe, a set of instruction. You need to solve the problem using a set of instructions, which is the basic skeleton of an algorithm. Going back in history, an algorithm has a clear mathematical origin, as it is derived from the Arabic word for Algebra. It is not grammatically right or perfect, but it is a powerful way of expressing abstract concepts, similar to what Algebra does. It doesn’t depend on the knowledge of the object we are manipulating, but using it in an algebraic way to refer to instructions, code, software and machine learning capabilities.

Dr. Massimo Mazzotti refers to how algorithms are driving cars, explaining how our concepts about technologies are changing once algorithms come into the picture.

Algorithms Stem From Human Creativity and Assistance

Algorithms are hugely influenced by Political Dimensions—the most dynamic sociology factor. Political in a deeper sense means the society that we are today and what we become in the future. Politics, according to Dr. Massimo Mazzotti, is the Art of Living together.

Like human dreams, algorithms are part of the reality today. Algorithms are embedded way deeper in our lives than actually visible.

Algorithms have political dimensions defined by the level of intuitiveness and organizing life in a certain way. Secondly, they are not a universal phenomenon. They are raised by humans to serve human ambitions.

Social Media and Algorithmically Crafted Reality

Here, Sean asks Dr. Massimo Mazzotti about social reality.

Dr. Massimo Mazzotti, in his reply, quotes algorithms and the technologies using them as “effective, but not neutral”. Though algorithms are mathematical derivations, they are not neutral. They are neither good nor bad—but they shape our life, reinforcing certain aspects that we believe in, and that we don’t.

Social reality today is not amalgamated version of perspectives, bias and data set that the algorithm is mining. Yes, algorithm tools are getting accurate, but they are also picking biases from the data set—which makes it ‘humanly flawed” for social media.

Dr. Mazzotti identifies “biased algorithm” as a dangerous illusion for social media interactions and monitoring.

Algorithms and Over-mechanization

We tend to believe that everything we create today is new and has never appeared in the history. Clock, is the symbol of both antiquity and modern sophistication. Dr. Massimo Mazzotti refers to clocks as the “universal” metaphor for existence, time and logic. This has prevailed since the 17th century. Clock has guided technological change more than any other invention, and it remains a real artifact that “not just defines reality, but also modifies reality”.

Precision clocks have played critical role in rationalization of workforce management, Industrial era, productivity, navigation, and even colonial expansions. Clock, in that sense, have a visible analogy with algorithms that we use for machine learning today.

Algorithmic Life, helps us identify what will happen when machines take the ruling. Having machines at the center of our lives could mean the beginning of a dystopian world. For others, it could be a heavenly paradise!

Another example Dr. Massimo Mazzotti uses to explain Algorithmic Life is the evolution of Human Intelligence and the changes in defining machine intelligence. Historically, chess is the pinnacle, the quintessential, sign of human intelligence. Now computers can play chess too! First computers made by Babbage crossed the first barrier of individual human intelligence.

Algorithm and Diverging Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence is yet to be overly mechanized like other technologies that run on algorithms. Personal preferences again define how artificial intelligence shapes up in the future. Of course, it gives us a scope to actually think that we can make machines that socialize.

Tune into more from Dr. Massimo Mazzotti

Currently, Dr. Massimo Mazzotti is working on a special project at the University of Berkley. He is working on social impact and social dimensions of Algorithm, apart from participating in workshops and publication research.

For more topics in Artificial Intelligence, keep an eye on AI 101 Series. AI 101 Series is a special edition authored by Infer’s Sean Zinsmeister exclusively for MarTech Series.

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