Philosophy Cafe: Be careful what you Like—data analysis, social media, and psychological profiling

26 October 2017 (Thu), 3 - 4:30 PM
At Cendana Student Commons

Always being connected has in many ways made our cognitive, practical, and social lives easier or more convenient. This might seem like a good thing. However, being connected also raises critical issues. We constantly leave behind trails of information: browsing and search histories, and logs of items viewed or purchased—just to give a few examples.

Data analysis is increasingly used to extract information from data sets, and this information is used for a wide variety of purposes. Amazon, for example, uses data analysis to issue the well-known “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought” recommendations. This might seem fairly innocuous. However, reflection on the full power of data analysis might—and perhaps should—give us pause. A recent article shows that computer-based judgement is more accurate than human judgement when it comes to psychological profiling in terms of openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. If given respectively 10, 70, and 150 Facebook Likes, computer-based judgements exhibit the same or greater accuracy than judgements issued by respectively co-workers, friends, and family members. Notably, if the number is increased to 300, computer-based judgements even exhibit slightly greater accuracy than judgements issued by spouses. This does not seem all that innocuous—indeed, quite the opposite.

About the speaker: Professor Nikolaj Pederson is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Underwood International College (UIC), Yonsei University, Republic of Korea. His research areas are epistemology, truth, metaphysics, and philosophy of logic. His recent and current work focuses on pluralism about truth, logic, and ontology.