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A Manifesto For Algorithms in the Environment

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How can there be public scrutiny of the ways computers understand and affect the environment?

The in-progress Biosphere Code Manifesto is based on growing understanding that algorithms permeate technology.

Credit: Deco/Alamy

Stockholm University researcher Victor Galaz and colleagues outline precepts for an in-progress Biosphere Code Manifesto, a recommendation for using algorithms borne out of growing awareness that they so deeply permeate our technology "they consistently and subtly shape human behavior and our influence on the world's landscapes, oceans, air, and ecosystems."

The manifesto stipulates those implementing and using algorithms should weigh those programs' effects, and algorithms should be designed to consider human needs and the biosphere while also enabling transformations toward sustainability via the support of ecologically responsible innovation. A third principle calls for fair distribution of algorithms' benefits and risks, and a fourth principle advises making them flexible, adaptable, and context-aware in the event serious impacts or unforeseen outcomes emerge. Another precept is for algorithms to be used in such a manner as to augment people's capacity to deal with unexpected results, such as problems caused by errors or misbehaviors in other algorithms. Keeping data collection transparent and meaningful, and validating the datasets that feed into algorithms, is the sixth principle. The final outlined principle is to use algorithms to improve human creativity and playfulness, and to produce new kinds of art.

"We should encourage algorithms that facilitate human collaboration, interaction, and engagement — with each other, with society, and with nature," Galaz says.

From The Guardian
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