Another Xoogler Explains Algorithmic Manipulation

December 25, 2020

I don’t want to make a big deal about a former Google engineer talking about algorithmic manipulation. I know what happened to the Google AI expert who pointed out that training data can and does bias how numerical recipes make decisions.

I spotted this 2019 statement in an ancient write up called “‘YouTube Recommendations Are Toxic,’ Says Dev Who Worked on the Algorithm.” The speaker is a Xoogler (the semi official name for someone who worked at the Google) who allegedly worked on the YouTube recommendation algorithm. Now keep in mind that the Google is a pretty chaotic outfit, and it is possible for people to “work on” something and the outside world will have zero idea whether the contribution was a quality test or something substantive like fiddling thresholds to meet a harried superior’s goal. (Bonus time causes some interesting activities I have heard.)

Here’s the quote, and I have put in bold face the important statement which I found important and possibly accurate:

“It isn’t inherently awful that YouTube uses AI to recommend video for you, because if the AI is well tuned it can help you get what you want. This would be amazing,” Chaslot told TNW. “But the problem is that the AI isn’t built to help you get what you want — it’s built to get you addicted to YouTube. Recommendations were designed to waste your time.”

The write up does not dig into wasting time. I want to share my perception of the time wasting angle. In the good old days, Web sites wanted to be sticky. That’s why mere search engines became portals and eventually massive one stop shops with everything in one “experience.”

For YouTube, the more time a person invests in watching videos on YouTube, the more ads Google can slam into the video. If you think there are a lot of ads for a video now, just wait until the “game plan” is rolled out to the Googlers in the Spring of 2021.

Therefore, the purpose of the YouTube algorithm is to create opportunities to display ads. Are these relevant or irrelevant. I must say that I am quite adept at clicking past blandishments for Grammarly, Liberty Mutual, and many other hapless companies dumping cash into the coffers of the world’s most wonderfulest Web search system. Grammarly, isn’t “wonderfulest” a real word when used with “Google”? Maybe I should as DeepMind? Oh, right. DeepMind is busy doing healthy things and losing hundreds of millions of dollars every year.

Burn that ad inventory. Absolutely.

Stephen E Arnold, December 25, 2020


Comments are closed.

  • Archives

  • Recent Posts

  • Meta