The fear index

Andrew Leonard:

Epictetus had it easy. We are no longer capable of understanding what we have wrought. That’s a job only the algorithm can do.

More from Hoffmann:

“When Hugo and I started this fund, the data we used was entirely digitalized financial statistics: there was almost nothing else. But over the past couple of years a whole new galaxy of information has come within our reach. Pretty soon all the information in the world — every tiny scrap of knowledge that humans possess, every little thought we’ve ever had that’s been considered worth preserving over thousands of years — all of it will be available digitally. Every road on earth has been mapped. Every building photographed. Everywhere we humans go, whatever we buy, whatever websites we look at, we leave a digital trail as clear as slug slime. And this data can be read, searched, and analyzed by computers and value extracted from it in ways we cannot even begin to conceive.”

The most terrifying part of “The Fear Index” is the sinking sensation, as you turn the last page, that we haven’t seen anything yet. We are incapable of comprehending the totality of the data we produce. We’ll design ever more complex computer programs to do that for us. And they’re going to make a big mess.

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