Bodó, B., Helberger, N., Irion, K., Borgesius, F., Möller, J., Van de Velde, B., … De Vreese, C. H. (2017). Tackling the algorithmic control crisis – the technical, legal, and ethical challenges of research into algorithmic agents. Yale Journal of Law and Technology, 19, 133-180.

Introduction: Algorithmic agents permeate every instant of our online existence. As Artificial Intelligence research makes steady advances, as sensors proliferate, and more and more data are being accumulated and shared on data markets, the effectiveness of algorithmic recommendations grows while the costs of personalization drop. Consequently, many wonder if there will still be a space in the future where we remain insulated from direct or indirect exposure to algorithmic agents. In the age of ubiquitous algorithmic agents, will there be still spaces where we are not subjected to A/B tests, tailored advertising, price discrimination, and content recommendations? Will there be spaces in the future which are not controlled, one way or another, by algorithmic agents, and where technology is a neutral arbiter of rather than an active agent in our interactions in and with our environment?

Technology, as always, is deployed before society had the opportunity to come to terms with it. The lack of insight leads to a sense of lost control, drawing anxious responses. 10 Many see algorithmic agents as black boxes, 11 or rather, as black holes, which utilize all available information and grow ever powerful, but still remain invisible to human perception. Just like astrophysicists, scholars of algorithmic agents try to evaluate circumstantial evidence to understand how algorithmic agents operate, but unlike natural scientists, the researchers who study the sociological, political, economic, anthropological, ethical, and legal aspects of algorithmic black boxes regard their object of study as anything but natural or value-neutral. Algorithmic agents, …

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