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  • May 11th, 2009

    Just Say No to Algorithms

     Bob Robertson
    Monday, May 11, 2009

    I was really bad at math in high school. I was, obviously, very good at fooling around which has provided me with a nice career and a decent source of income, but math! No, if you looked at my report cards you’d see marks for math that looked like the speed limit signs in Vancouver - ‘50 maximum’. Even though I couldn’t understand how I would use it in my life, in the early days, I actually enjoyed figuring out how far a frigate would travel in a fortnight, although I, otherwise, never used the words ‘frigate’ and fortnight’ in any daily conversations. For example, this would never be heard; “Hey Bob! Are you going to the dance tonight? No, Eric, I’ll be on the frigate again. Probably back in a fortnight.”

    I was way in over my head with geometry and algebra, but when we hit algorithms, I was snookered (which is where I spent most of my time instead of attending math class).

    Now, the reason I bring this up is because here in British Columbia, we are having a provincial election tomorrow. As well as electing a government, there is a ballot question that asks us if we want to switch voting systems from the First Past the Post System to one called the Single Transferable Vote System. In the STV system, you vote for more than one candidate and after the ballots are counted, your vote could be sent to another less-deserving candidate, sort of electoral philanthropy. The proponents of STV say these decisions will be made using an algorithm formula. Why did I feel like heading to the pool hall when I heard that? Look, I have enough trouble right now picking just one candidate. With the STV system I’d have to study up on just about everybody who’s running and, really, when would I have time for cocktail hour? So, I’m saying no to STV, mostly because I don’t want my democratic rights guarded by an ‘algorithm formula’. Weren’t the Hanging Chads of Florida enough to make you worry about computers in an election? Speaking of Hanging Chads, Al Gore may have invented the internet but don’t believe him if he says he invented algorithms and named them after himself. He’s been sniffing way too much greenhouse gas.

    Listen to Bob Robertson every week at http://doublexposureradio.com/podcast.html

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