Today the world relies more than ever on big data and algorithmic decision making. These decisions, made by machines based on their analysis of data, are world forming in the sense that they determine and document your online experience, altering the media and news that one sees in their feed. Recently, algorithmic decision making is used to effect “real world” aspects of life, such as banking, hiring, social status, and more. Lately I’ve become very interested in the power these machines hold over us. Some of the biggest of these algorithms, like those used by Facebook and Google, are self learning and dealing with pools of data so large that even their creators don’t understand the whole. This puts us in a situation where decisions, often seemingly inhumane, are being made for us based totally on the goals of a system that sees humans as nothing more than data, exploitable for profit.
I started thinking about how I could express this using something close to home, and thought, “Where closer and more obvious than right outside the Mason Gross classrooms?” Growing up in the surrounding area, I witnessed the city’s rapidly changing downtown area. Affordable housing and small businesses have been largely replaced by luxury high rise apartment buildings, with many families being displaced.
Using a predictive system called a Markov Chain and data from past demolitions and construction in the area, this website showcases a possible future for downtown New Brunswick.