only search Cheshire Henbury

Cheshire Henbury's website is structured around several sub-sites to accommodate the large amount of content. Please pick a topic of interest from the above menu and begin to explore and learn. Or use the Google Search box to the left.

European Visions for the Knowledge Age Web Pages

Main Home >European Visions Home >Chapter Introductions > Chapter 8

European Visions for the Knowledge Age

vision book cover

European Visions for the Knowledge Age

A Quest for New Horizons in the Information Society

Paul T Kidd (Ed)
ISBN 978-1-901864-08-3 (Paperback)
Price: See buy on-line link



Chapter 8
The @lgorithmic Society: Digitarians of the World Unite
Kazimierz Krzysztofek
The information society, the knowledge society, the post-capitalist society, the post-mass production society, … The list of terms describing future society seems endless; and grows longer. People using these labels normally single out and expose one or more features of such a society. No-one has been able to encompass society as a whole, even though many have tried.
The feature of future society that is essential can be expressed by the name, the algorithmic society: algorithmic beyond real needs. The tendencies leading to this stage seem quite clear. This announces some benefits for the future, but also many complications.
"In the beginning there was Algorithm." So announced the well-known mathematician Steven Wolfram. Those who are not convinced by such biblical paraphrases can find something similar in leftist holy texts: the spectrum of algorithm is spinning around the world.
Algorithms are real. They are defined procedures. They usually refer to computer programs, but they also explain the behaviour of living organisms. In these cases they are genetic or hormonal algorithms. The term is rarely used for people even though humans are also equipped with genetic and hormonal programs. But people are also products of cultures, which gives them both desirable and undesirable features.
The notion of algorithm may be fruitful in explaining some cultural phenomena. Throughout history, people have been programmed via community cultures, cultures of fate, which did not leave much room for individual decisions, private consciousness, morality and identity. The history of European cultures can be interpreted as a long-lasting process of freeing human beings from these cultural algorithms. The most outstanding achievements date back to the age of the Enlightenment, when millions of educated people started to guide themselves by their own mind and free will. Yet, there were constant attempts to assimilate the chaos brought about by freedom of thinking and acting through certain endeavours meant to re-impose algorithms on people. In the industrial society it was the mass, redundant culture. In the 20th century, Nazi and Communist totalitarianism were particular cases of this; these imposed strict procedures of thinking and acting. This imposition of algorithmic thinking did not fully succeed, yet it was detrimental to both society and individuals: the victims of these systems.
The algorithm, seen as learned behaviour, is necessary for the functioning of humans. Without it people would waste their intellectual energy analysing all their actions, even those that are minor and insignificant. Without such algorithms humans would have never left the pre-human stage of their development, before the emergence of homo sapiens.
However, algorithms are perplexing. On the one hand the increasing use of algorithms will ease life, yet on the other there are doubts, considering the scale that will be achieved in the future, if they will be beneficial to humankind in the longer term.
Behavioural automatism protects people against unnecessary intellectual processing and, owing to this, it gives people a chance to use their minds for creativity, innovation and invention. Yet, there is a concern that a decreasing number of people will be able to be creative. A striking contradiction of 20th century civilisation was that on one side there was an imperative to be creative and innovative, but on the other there was rising pressure for predictable human behaviour, since unpredictability gives birth to chaos which is difficult to manage.
The problem of algorithms was relatively less important when technologies of the mechanical age imposed procedures on muscles and senses. Information and communication technologies however replace some functions of brain, for instance memory, calculation, processing, etc., which makes the problem much more complex and provokes anxieties.
It is possible that the near future will see a move to information algorithmic-behaviour of people. Those who succeed in freeing themselves from it will produce algorithms to program people - the algorithmic masses. This will not occur because of some Matrix, as in the film of that name, will but because of the very nature and logic of the bio-techno sphere. Its impetus makes futile any attempt to stop this machine.

Some of Paul T Kidd's Books

Book Covers

Legal Notice: The information posted on the web site is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in the web site. The information is believed to be correct at the time of publication. Cheshire Henbury cannot however accept any responsibility for the completeness, accuracy and relevance of the information. Information is published with the understanding that publication does not represent the rendering of advice, consulting or other professional services. Specific application in a particular organisation is the sole responsibility of the representatives of that organisation. If expert advice is needed, the services of a competent person should be sought. Please read our terms and conditions (opens in a new window) for use of this web site.

Cheshire Henbury

Address and Phone Details (opens in new window)

Email: Contact form (opens in a new window)

Web address: