Inadvertent algorithmic cruelty

Posted to Statistics  |  Tags: , ,  |  Nathan Yau

If you logged into Facebook the past couple of weeks, you saw your friends’ automatically generated year-end reviews. Estimated events and popular pictures appear in chronological order. Facebook eventually pinned your own year in review at the top of your feed for perusal. Seems harmless — until you realize there are people who don’t want to look back, like Eric Meyer, whose daughter died this year.

And I know, of course, that this is not a deliberate assault. This inadvertent algorithmic cruelty is the result of code that works in the overwhelming majority of cases, reminding people of the awesomeness of their years, showing them selfies at a party or whale spouts from sailing boats or the marina outside their vacation house.

But for those of us who lived through the death of loved ones, or spent extended time in the hospital, or were hit by divorce or losing a job or any one of a hundred crises, we might not want another look at this past year.

See also Meyer’s follow-up. While many took the original post as a way to hate on Facebook, Meyer didn’t mean it like that.

Favorites

Best Data Visualization Projects of 2016

Here are my favorites for the year.

The Changing American Diet

See what we ate on an average day, for the past several decades.

Jobs Charted by State and Salary

Jobs and pay can vary a lot depending on where you live, based on 2013 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Here’s an interactive to look.

Divorce Rates for Different Groups

We know when people usually get married. We know who never marries. Finally, it’s time to look at the other side: divorce and remarriage.