Algorithms of the Mind

Algorithmic Determinism is a new term applied to the way in which algorithms developed for applications and social media determine a particular outcome. I do not begin to understand the technical aspects but I find it freakishly similar to how our mind filters data. The difference being tech companies are trying to drive business and optimize profitability. In the case of our mind, that is the ego’s job. Buddha was very prophetic but I suspect he would be amazed to what extent his teachings would presage this technological era.

In an ideal world where all endeavors would be the result of enlightened intention, algorithms would be a good way to magnify loving kindness on the planet. But our intention is not always so enlightened. We tend to be very self-absorbed and the same holds true with technology companies. For instance, Twitter’s algorithms work behind the scenes to rank and prioritize posts it thinks people want to see and encourages consumption. All social media platforms do this. But algorithms tend to track bias and then foster bias. The intention behind the input determines the output.

Our mind does the same thing. We have difficulty recognizing our implicit biases and we tend to surround ourselves and/or communicate with those who share the same opinions. We do this consciously but it is more often than not an unconscious act. This is why Buddha suggested we settle our minds and notice the movement of thoughts. We can witness the play of mind like watching waves on the ocean. We then become very aware of how we select one wave over another—and we have the option of changing our minds. The settled mind tends to experience loving interconnection with all beings equally—and prioritizes compassion over divisiveness.

If our social media had such awareness, it would foul up the business model. Good business requires anticipation and fulfillment of self-indulgent desires in order to be profitable. The ego does the same thing except in this case, profitability comes in the form of approval—the ‘strokes’ we get from being friended and complimented. Social media feeds on our ego fixations. We do not realize how this creates a false view of ourselves until our facade crumbles and goes viral. 

If we can plant seeds of heightened awareness, it is possible for people to make better choices in their use of technology. We begin by looking at the mind and how technology mirrors both the good and more toxic aspects of our consciousness. We prioritize the beneficial aspects for all beings. In other words, we change our minds and then change the media. It probably won’t happen the other way around. But I am open to miracles.

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