The Loop was better than I was expecting. The author, Jacob Ward, is a long time technology journalist and has a much firmer grasp on the technology and trends driving us into a world dominated by algorithms than many other journalists I have read in recent years. The early parts of the book explore the psychological work, done by academics over the last fifty years, that has been used by technologists to understand and influence the behavior of billions of people. After building that foundation the book moves through specific examples of people and companies that are using AI (or simple algorithms branded as “AI”) to profit from influencing our behavior and making decisions for us, often without our awareness.
I struggled a bit to keep some of the academic work straight in my head in the early going, and the author’s “Loop” analogy never really felt like the right way to visualize the concept of algorithms making invisible decisions for us, but the work was solid, interesting, and compelling, and is worth a read even for those who already have a good grasp of the problem the author is exploring.