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Peering into the Black Box of Machine-Learning Algorithms


NBC science and tech correspondent Jacob Ward

Credit: Jacob Ward

In 2015, NBC science and technology correspondent Jacob Ward began to meet researchers who were doing revolutionary work on understanding unconscious human behaviors. He also started looking into tech companies' pattern-recognition algorithms, which they were using to predict and ultimately shape human behavior.

"I realized these two worlds are on a collision course," Ward said in an interview. "What happens if, in a few generations, all this pattern-recognition technology has found and amplified the most irresistible, unconscious human instincts?" That question led Ward to write The Loop: How Technology Is Creating a World Without Choices and How to Fight Back, a study of the scientific research—and inexorable market forces—fueling tech's prediction machine.

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