Mutant Algorithm Alert

UK end-of-year school exams got cancelled. Great for schoolkids freed of revision. Awkward for those pair of years (aged 16 and 18) for whom marks determine future progress. To any range of moving on to more education or into the real world of work.

The education system’s stated solution? An algorithm.

Said so proudly.

How could anyone argue?

Well. Let’s just say that when Prime Minister Boris Johnson made his first pubic comment following what was widely termed the subsequent “fiasco”, he blamed a “mutant algorithm”.

In terms of a machine instruction gone haywire, the modern-day equivalent to the outcome from ‘spaghetti code’.  Piling up over time layers of mess. Rubbish in, rubbish out…

Now 2020 pupils’ results are utterly meaningless. The regulator initially reported that teacher-awarded grades were so wildly optimistic – what teacher would want ‘low’ marks associated with classes taught by them? – they felt compelled to adjust down 40 per cent of grades.

Whilst then re-jigged assessments stats were cooked by all and sundry to fit their stance, it is clear that the pretty much flattish line of grade performance over recent years now experiences a significant blip in the form of what will be an undoubtedly one-off jump up.

At the heart of detractor wails, seems to be the fact that an individual’s grades were judged in the context of where their school overall typically fared in the countrywide rankings. Termed the ‘standardisation model’.

This supposedly being the central flaw.

You can have a smidgen of sympathy for the authorities here. There were claims of teachers trying to game the system so that they neither looked bad nor got parental grief. Predicted grades are a notoriously inexact science. And grade inflation – also from Paper difficulty reduction – is indeed a real problem to rein in.

Yet in the round, not a good year for the algorithm.

At a time when their sinister presence looms ever larger into the public psyche.

Big Data the oppressive force that aims to turn all the free world into Chinese Communist Party style submission.

HFTs earn the elite squillions from dodgy stock market plays.

AI set to sublimate humanity through its machine-learning dystopia.

All prone to their algorithms running riot.

Given this, is there an angle for solution sale success here?

Is there a mutant algorithm loose inside your prospect’s thinking, organisation or marketplace?

Can you tame, switch or re-engineer it?

One oft-cited definition is that algorithms are recipes.

Merely a process or set of rules to follow in calculations or problem-solving routines.

I note one popular explanation breaks this down. Précis from Pedro Domingos’ The Master Algorithm;

An algorithm is a sequence of instructions telling a computer what to do … reducible to three logical operations: AND, OR, and NOT … while these operations can chain together in extraordinarily complex ways, at core algorithms are built out of simple rational associations.

If only the world were so rational, Mister Prospect….

Famously, algorithms don’t do a good job of detecting their own flaws.

Can you identify, expose and amend them?

After all, can prospect engagement increase if you help them document a potentially rogue algo in their realm?

You’ve probably heard the dig at coders;

Algorithm is word used by programmers when they don’t want to explain what they did.

Well, maybe now you can reclaim ground. Root out any perceived injustice. Highlight the associations that make buying from you a simple equation.

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